This post marks a first for A Chicken in a Cage With a Ferret, in that this is the first time I have taken up a co-author, my dear friend Caitlyn. I'm not totally sure how co-authorship is supposed to work. How can two people compose one body of text? Maybe she and I should be sitting together at my computer, and I could type all the letters on the left side of the keyboard, and she could type the ones on the right side. That seems like a very tedious undertaking, however, so I'll let all of you know how this is working. What follows is made up mostly of Caitlyn's ideas, with a few of mine scattered in, while most of the actual words are mine, with some of hers scattered in. Her idea wrapped up in my words. It's like taking a beauty queen and dressing her up in a burlap sack, I'm sure.
That isn't a word I use frequently. In fact, it's a word I rarely hear from guys in general. How often do you hear men at the sports bar yell things like, "Wow, I am completely captivated by that touchdown catch!" No, this is a term relegated more to the female vernacular, as evidenced by the book written by John and Stasi Eldredge called Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul, bearing a cover complete with blue sky, grassy meadow, and unrealistic castle. This idea of captivation lies at the root of little girls' dreams. Women desire to be both captivated and captivating, to fall head over heels for Mr. Right and to be adored as beautiful and pure, to live the plot of a romantic comedy. It's a term that dwells in the realm of Disney princesses.
By all of this, I don't mean that the idea of being captivated is wimpy or fluffy. Obviously, the word "captivate" is related to "captive." To be captivated is, in a sense, to be made captive, and thus, in its popular usage, to be made prisoner to Cupid's twisted schemes. In Ephesians 3:1, Paul writes of being captivated/made captive by something else when he writes, "For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles." Paul was captivated by Christ. His words, thoughts, actions--his entire life--was centered on his Savior. In light of the God who was so captivated by him that he died in his place, Paul has no choice to be be completely entranced by and submissive to Jesus. His aim is that every waking moment be devoted to Christ.
That's what our lives as Christ-followers are meant to look like. As ones in which we are completely captivated by Christ. A problem arises, however, when we allow ourselves to be captivated by lesser things. It happens to us all the time--we see something that looks nice and that promises fulfillment and pleasure, and we become enchanted by it to the point that we lose sight of God. This is what the problem has been from the start really, from the time Eve "saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom" (Gen. 3:6). Influenced by Satan's lies and empty promises, Eve became captivated by the fruit and the thought of becoming like God. Instead of being captivated with God, she became captivated by a false god and led Adam and all mankind into sin and separation from God.
Of course, we can also become captivated by things that are not sinful. In themselves, these lures are innocuous, but they still have the potential to draw our attention and devotion away from Christ. For example, a dedicated Christian may become captivated by the cute blonde that sits in the front row, so they date and she eventually draws him away from the church and chips away at his dedication to Christ. Or an aspiring young go-getter becomes captivated by the thought of making money, so he blows off a life of ministry in favor of the pursuit of wealth. Or an intellectual can become so absorbed in the accumulation of knowledge that she loses sight of what it means to live as a captive of Christ.
We're made to be captivated by Christ. All of these other things that we tend to become captivated by prove to be dry wells. They promise satisfaction and esteem and comfort and fulfillment, but they always fall short; they always disappoint. After writing that God does not tempt anyone to sin, Jesus' brother James writes, "but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death" (Jas. 1:14-15). These captivating sins promise blessing but deliver death, and the seemingly harmless sirens of life do the same by pulling us away from our Creator.
In that same passage, James goes on to write, "Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (1:16-17). Since these verses are the beginning of a new paragraph in the NIV, it can be easy to miss the connection with what comes before it. Sin promises good things but is unable to make good on that promise. It promises life and bestows death. God, on the other hand, is the giver of good gifts. He has our best interests at heart. While Satan uses sins and distractions to ruin our lives, Christ gives us life in its fullest. So we have a choice. We can be captive to the one who wants to make our lives suck, or to the God who loves us and gave himself for us. In all those romantic comedies I mentioned earlier, the girl has a choice to be with the guy who loves her and honors her, or with the guy who can only offer a life of disappointment and regret (at least that's what I've heard; I haven't wanted very many movies belong to said genre). And all the girls in the audience shed tears of joy when she chooses correctly, so I can only imagine the joy in Christ's eyes we we choose the happy ending.