We draw a line in the sand
Will you cross it? Oh, will you die for this?
Got nothing to tell you that you don’t
Through your sadness below, already know
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Live through the past again
How many times must I live through the past again?
– “Paul Newman vs. the Demons”, The Carpenter (2012)
I wrote about the first verse of this song in my previous post, interpreting it to help me understand the tragic demise of my younger half-brother, who perished in an alcohol-induced car accident three weeks ago. My main point was that sin is not merely immoral, regrettable decisions that we make that may harm us or other people. It is a condition of the heart whereby our identity is wrapped up in and distorted by something, or someone, we have made into a god – an idol. We identify ourselves with an idol by faith – by trusting in the deceptive promises, originating from the Evil One, that this idol will save us. By ‘save’ I mean to make us complete and content; to give us a sense of importance and meaning. The promises are deceptive because no finite/created thing can fulfill them. And they are deceptive in a malicious way in that they have a ruinous effect on our souls, causing us to act in ways that are contrary to our and our neighbor’s well-being.
After confessing his willful affiliation with his demons, the songwriter describes how we “draw a line in the sand’ and poses two questions: “Will you cross it? Will you die for this?” To whom you might ask? Probably to God – the song reads like a prayer. I believe he is asking God if He will cross the line the songwriter has drawn. We do not know exactly what sins in the past he is living through again and again. But clearly he is seeking deliverance from the guilt and regret the sin has caused. How would God deal with such heinous sin? Is any sin beyond the reach of God’s power to redeem?
The songwriter then answers his own question: he already knows the answer. How does he know it? “Through your sadness below” must be talking about the humiliation of Christ, the Son of God. ‘Below’ refers to earth, relative to heaven. ‘Sadness’ makes me think about how Jesus has been called “a man of sorrows.” On the eve of his betrayal and death, knowing the depth of suffering that awaited him, Jesus told his disciples, ““My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38). His sorrow was not limited to his unimaginable suffering on the cross; rather, this was the culmination of a lifetime of sorrow. Thus, the Westminster Larger Catechism explains the doctrine of Christ’s humiliation:
Q. 46. What was the estate of Christ’s humiliation?
The estate of Christ’s humiliation was that low condition, wherein he for our sakes, emptying himself of his glory, took upon him the form of a servant, in his conception and birth, life, death, and after his death, until his resurrection.
The Catechism then proceeds to describe how Christ humbled himself in each of these stages. He did this ‘for our sakes,’ though not because we were good and thus deserving. The Apostle Paul writes in his letter to Romans (5:6-8):
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Like The Avett Brothers, we already know he would die for this because he has, knowing we were his enemies, knowing we would exchange His truth for the lies of our idols and live according to the word of the Evil One, knowing we would give our hearts to evil. Only this sacrifice has the power to remove the stain of our guilt once and for all so that we do not have to continuously live through the past again.
I wish my brother had known and embraced this sacrifice. It seemed that he felt so much guilt and shame from past sins that he just had to keep getting drunk and high to help him suppress his guilt. This, of course, just made matters worse and he was caught in a vortex of sin that just grew stronger and stronger, destroying lives in its wake. There is so much guilt associated with his demise and death to go around. I know that my family members are still feeling it. I just hope they will not believe in the lies of the Evil One, echoed through the allurements of addictions and distractions, that promise to make the guilt go away, but only deepen it. But instead that they will trust in the true Word of God, which promises to wash clean the guilty conscience of anyone that repents and trusts in the death of Christ for sinners.