Remember that bucolic vacation in the countryside when a rooster’s crowing gently raising you from sleep to one more delicious day of sheer joy, away from city noise, surrounded by the reassuring sights and sounds of nature?
It was not like that at all. The third time Peter denied Jesus, a rooster crowed, it was like a time bomb exploding in his face. Peter, sheepishly warming himself over the garrison fire, having lied to save his skin, was shaken to the depth of his soul — by a rooster! (John 18:27). He must have thought, “How could Jesus have known with such accuracy? What have I done? My life is over.” The eventual first apostle was brought very low before the pieces were put together again, and he became a worthy and courageous servant of his Lord.
Roosters crow throughout our lives, bringing good and bad news. In my teenage years, I lived with the constant fear of going bald. (My adolescent fears were justified!) The rooster that woke me every morning was a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that kept me awake, but unable to crawl out of bed, since it paralyzed me with fear of the future and of inevitable social failure. Years later, I finally “saw” Jesus beyond the rooster, calling me to trust in his dying love for me, asking me: “Do you love me more than these?” For me, “these” meant my need for self–affirmation, success and selfish enjoyment. Those needs made me deny my Savior all the day long… This is my story, and, with blessed assurance,I am sticking with it. The day I understood the rooster’s crow, both judging and justifying me, was the first liberated day of the rest of my life.
How can we silence that bothersome rooster? Easy, says our culture. Eliminate guilt. Pretend there is no ultimate evil. Take a pill. Stop blaming yourself. These answers, proposed by our therapeutic culture, claim to “heal” us of deep moral responsibility. Alas, they remove an essential part of human dignity, as well as any hope of genuine deliverance from the ache in our soul, when we actually need a gos–pill!
When pills are ineffective and the therapist starts to repeat himself, modern spirituality picks up the slack. The new, sophisticated pagan attack on Christianity claims that “fundamentalism” is dead. Jim Marion, an ex–Roman Catholic monk affirms “the death of the mythic God” of “primitive” biblical theism. People are “walking out of the churches by the millions” because they can no longer believe in this God “who lives in the sky.” But not to worry. Christianity is re–inventing itself, incorporating “the insights of ‘evolutionary spirituality’ into the theological framework of the Christian life.” The new Christianity is deeply mystical, seeking, like all the great religions, “union with God,” where the distinction between us and God finally falls away. This experience produces “psychological wholeness,” whereby “the shadow” (i.e. evil) is “integrated into the personality.” This, says Marion, is what Carl Jung called “individuation.” Here modern therapy and the “new spirituality” are really one. “Individuation” means that a person has joined good and evil, relativizing them. Paganism calls this the conjunctio oppositorum, “the joining of the opposites.” Both therapy and spirituality kill the rooster, by cleverly sweeping guilt under the rug, as well as the God who made us, who is separate from us, but wants to redeem us. While the “new age” Jesus whispers “Do not cling to the old rugged cross…your only goal in life is to avoid guilt in all its forms,” moral pain, like physical pain, will not go away so easily.
Poor Peter. He heard that crowing bird every day for the rest of his life, and, one day thirty years later, he heard it most vividly and for the last time. That was on the morning of his own crucifixion under Nero. At that moment Peter must have smiled to himself, thanking God for the delicious irony that a strutting cock had turned him from a sniveling failure into a courageous martyr. That early–bird special had shaken him from his selfish ways, setting him on a path of selfless and significant service, with immense courage that came, not from himself but from his Savior, who did not brush evil under the rug, but bore our evil in his body on the Cross as our sacrifice for sin.
Let the rooster crow. Give ear to what that pesky animal is saying. Wake up, smell the roses, but listen also to your conscience, recognize your evil and guilt, and confess your sin. Though “Christian Ringtones” does not [yet!] have a rooster–crowing option, we all need one, to cause us to look to the only one who can take our “shadow”and turn it into eternal light, to the glory of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.