Dear Dido, Please Don’t Kill Yourself

Continuing my theme of classical literature and its contribution to daily life, I’ve come to the story of Dido.  Pretty tragic…and depressing.  Her story is short–after her brother murders her husband, she flees to Libya with her followers.  In Libya, she founds the city of Carthage and becomes its queen.  All is well and happy till this uber-perfect hero named Aeneas shows up.  For reasons that don’t interest us at the moment, Cupid is sent to make Dido fall for Aeneas.  And boy, does she.  After a couple months, Mercury shows up and commands Aeneas to fulfill his destiny of sailing to Italy and founding Rome.  (Evidently there’s no “Take Dido with you” clause).  Aeneas immediately prepares to leave.  Dido tries to guilt him into staying, but he leaves anyways.  As he sails away, she commits suicide.

I told you it was depressing.

These stories of overpowering emotion crop up routinely in classical literature.  And in modern movies too.  Although our culture doesn’t normally view suicide as an appropriate response to getting dumped, there is this belief that being relationally rejected is cause for despair.  (Why else would there be a whole genre of Breakup Songs?) Dido connects herself to wholly to Aeneas that when that love is taken away, she has no identity.  Forget the city she was ruling and building.  Forget her sister (who gives bad advice, by the way).  Forget the vivid person Dido shows herself to be in the first fourth of the Aeneid.  She loses love.  So she chooses death.

I will be honest.  I think the story of Dido is…extreme and even a bit inflated on the emotional level.  But this craving for love is universal.  And, unfortunately, I’ve seen people become so involved in their respective relationships that when that relationship is taken away (or obliterated by stupidity) they can no longer function.  Their main source of identity is gone.

Maybe it’s because I’m living in a girls’ dormitory and hear the weeping and gnashing of teeth when break-ups hit.  Maybe it’s because I have a semi-spinsterly urge to create commentary on the other people’s lives.  Maybe it’s too much classical literature (to quote Austen…”Is it possible to read too many novels?” Oh yeah.)  Or maybe it’s just observation.  Whatever the reason that I’m prompted to write about this, I hope you take it seriously and go beyond my light-hearted jests.  Think about the people around you.  How many of them were torn to pieces when a relationship bites the dust.  Think about the last TV series you watched.  Don’t the characters usually go through an identity/emotional/everything crisis when their love life stinks?

I think the cause of this trend is two-fold: 1) a misconception that love life=good life.  That to have a boyfriend/girlfriend/lover/whatever=to have success and happiness.  So when that piece goes missing, you’re incomplete.  This thought crops up in many circles of thought and worldview–the whole idea that everyone is incomplete without another person to fill that hole.  Phrases like “my other half” or “I’m incomplete without him/her” emphasize this misconception.

2) a genuine desire for lasting relationships.  The problem is we’re looking in all the wrong places.  We were made for relationships–and friendships are great and marriages are awesome–but even those good things will not give us satisfaction or identity.  The crux of the matter is we were made for knowing God.

How do I know that?

First, because the Bible says the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Ecclesiastes says that the whole duty of man is to fear God and keep His commands.  Read the Gospels and Jesus’ teaching is overflowing with the appeal to know God–not to know the latest stock exchange rates, Hollywood break-ups, price of ground meat at Wal-Mart, or the square root of an imaginary number.  God’s primary concern is that we know Him.  Notice the number 1 command is not “Be good.”  I lived a lot of my life thinking that “being good” was the most important thing.  I had met God as my Savior and joined His family, but I didn’t fully understand that knowledge is supposed to deepen and grow.

Second, because I’ve tried to live my life searching for satisfaction in other people.  So when I looked to my friends to be my support and they failed, I was lost.  I looked at the wrong Friend.  God says He loves us with an everlasting love.  John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  Do you think Jesus is important?  The reason He came was love.

God gives fulfillment.  We don’t have to be Dido–destroyed when people fail us or lost when we are betrayed.  Our identity and existence does not depend on what Vanity Fair says about our love lives.  Romance does not equal identity.  I have found my identity in Christ, the One who made me, loved me, gave His life for mine, and raised my soul from its sinful condition to walk in newness of life.

Who am I?  I am Specs, an adopted daughter of God.  And even when I’m rebellious, God’s love draws me back to Himself.  I am imperfect, awkward, and verbose.  I laugh too loudly.  But God loves me anyways.  God loves me in my darkness when my heart is filled with fear, when I just don’t want to do anything anymore, when I’m in despair.  God loves me in my awkward moments when my hair looks like an ill-used cotton ball, when I’m on a date and spill hot chocolate on myself, when I stick my foot in my mouth.  God loves me even though I have an ugly, selfish heart.

Who am I?  I am a saved sinner, and as Galatians says, if I’m a child of God, I’m also an heir of God.  Hallelujah!

And guess what?  My love life stinks…I don’t even have one!  But at this moment, I don’t really care.  Because God has made me to be friends with Himself.  How awesome is that?  So if there’s any Dido out there, rejected and in pain, please…don’t kill yourself, or gorge yourself on an entire tub of ice cream, or lose yourself in the fascinating world of Halo.  People fail you.  But God won’t.

P.S.  Please don’t think I’m trying to be condescending to anyone.  Everything I post are things that I’ve been learning myself. 🙂

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