First the bad news: we’re all scarecrows.
Not the cute “Wizard of Oz” kind of scarecrow, with a winsome song and dance. Nor the scary “Batman” kind of scarecrow as psychopathic super-villain.
No. We’re the T.S. Eliot kind of scarecrow:
“We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us – if at all – not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.”
From “The Hollow Men” by T.S. Eliot
Eliot nailed something about the human condition. We may not be raging violent souls. We may not be genius psychopaths or gibbering lunatics. But there is a hollowness within. A spiritual deadness. An inner void. Until that void is filled, all our efforts, no matter how noble seeming, are but “shape without form, shade without colour, paralysed force, gesture without motion.”
Said another way, we are dead. Oblivious to our need for new life. “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)
Or said another way: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” (William Shakespeare, Macbeth)
If that were the whole story, then we would have cause to despair – for we’d all just be a bunch of bozos on a bus riding off to oblivion.
“But God, who is rich in mercy …”
There’s the turning point: “But God….” John Stott once suggested that those two words might well summarize the truth about why Christianity is good news.
We are dead … But God…
We are a mess … But God…
The world is a swirling puddle of dysfunction … But God…
“But God…” tells us that in the midst of our helplessness, apathy, and ennui, God takes action. God moves while we are languishing.
God makes us alive.
“But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)
The scarecrow is made alive. The wooden puppet becomes a real boy. The velveteen rabbit becomes a living creature. Not because they have carved their own destiny, but because of the love of the one who makes things alive.
That’s the good news. We’re dead, but God makes us alive.