My wife and I are watching the first season of Mad Men.
After last night’s episode, there are all sorts of thoughts clambering around in my head. Most of them are sad. There’s a new awareness of people who desperately yearn for that, which their actions ensure is forever outside their reach, the cruelty of starting in a situation that wasn’t chosen or even understood, and the hopelessness that comes when the understanding finally arrives.
Something in the world conspires to frustrate our yearnings for happiness, love and life. Its effectual too. Invariably so. It delights in the hollowness of our attempts to grasp at these things. It rejoices when we realize that every effort seems to work us deeper into the smothering, filthy muck that drowns us- the light just out of reach.
People are lost. That’s what Mad Men has brought home to me. Not in a abstract ‘God’s gonna get you’ sort of way, but in a ‘follow them to work or home’ or especially ‘when they’re alone and sober’ sort of way. We don’t need a preacher to tell us that we need to be saved. A camera…. and a wife or a job or a child or a client or a home will do the trick.
But as I’ve watched the show, the thing that’s struck me the most is how foreign all of this seems to my experience of the same time period. The Sixties and Seventies were the years of my childhood. I have no recollection of this type of desperate, lonely, sin ruled world.
In fact, I find the portrayal of the ‘respectable’ element of the 1960s hard to believe. Certainly in today’s world, but not back then. I was there, after all.
Turns out that the characterization is inaccurate, but only because the betrayal, abuse and selfishness is underplayed.
Apparently the world has always been the world- just as it continues to be the world today. The reason the world of Mad Men was not my world is simple and precious: Mom and Dad.
Our home was a place- a concrete, flesh and blood place– where Jesus’ rule was acknowledged. Certainly Sin crawled around our house, but he wasn’t in charge.
I suspect that many childhoods begin in wonder. Innocence alone can give you that; but love, fidelity, unselfish nurture and security were the world I grew up in- not a facade that experience would one day peel away.
Sure, I grew to understand the struggle, sacrifice and unalterable requirement of forgiveness and grace that Christ’ realm required, if it was to be made manifest; but that world never melted into something else. Never.
My initial reaction to this powerful show has reminded me of how deep was my parents gift to me. Growing up, I had no idea that a sin-ruled world was out there- or what it might look like. It was all more than I knew, literally. Watching the show I’ve realized that the illusion that most people then lived in my world- in Christ’s kingdom, in Dad and Mom’s house- followed me right into my late forties.
I’ve been reminded that the realm in which my childhood occurred was not the only one. But so powerful were the choices of my folks, that I continue to feel that it was. Thank you Mom and Dad, glory to you Lord Christ for making such a world and sharing it with me.