The end of the innocence (theology by Don Henley)

Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didn’t have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standing by

But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence

– Don Henley, The End of the Innocence

I like Don Henley; Don really knows how to paint a glorious picture and then smash it to bits. But, in many ways The End of the Innocence paints an accurate picture of the “already but not yet” state the earthly inhabitants of the Kingdom of God find themselves. It’s brilliant, actually, but Henley has no answers, which makes the song so wistful and depressing. (Thank goodness for Bruce Hornsby’s wistful but bouyant piano work.)

I often think back to my childhood, spending lazy days laying on the cool grass, studying bugs, listening to the wind rustle through elm & cottonwood leaves, and watching clouds roll by. Even then, life was not always idyllic. Bad things happened: things broke, pets and people died, there were rumors of wars. I learned fairly early on that there were things outside of my control, and even outside of my parents’ control. However, for the most part, I did have my parents to rely on. I didn’t have to be responsible for much of anything except getting my homework done. I could hang out in my yard, which was miles away from the rest of the world, and life was good:

But I know a place where we can go
That’s still untouched by man
We’ll sit and watch the clouds roll by
And the tall grass wave in the wind

It’s not the same anymore. I lay out in our yard now, and I’m instantly aware that it needs mowing, or fertilizing, or something. I now have responsibility, to a lot of people. I’m responsible to my family, to everything I own, to my employer, to the hordes outside my gate to whom I have obligations. Everything comes with a bill attached.

Responsibility is the end of the innocence. The way Don Henley writes, it’s all someone else’s fault:

Armchair warriors often fail
And we’ve been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers clean up all details
Since daddy had to lie
But I know a place where we can go
And wash away this sin …

Perhaps we can blame Adam (or Eve). We can pin it all on Satan. Or, if you’re one of the new liberals, on the President. But, in the long run, it doesn’t help:

Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence

In the end, there’s really no one else to blame, or at least it doesn’t matter. Responsibility is what it is, no matter where it came from. Behind that, of course, is knowledge; more specifically, the knowledge of good and evil. That knowledge is a weight that we weren’t intended to bear, but as they say, that’s life. We know, and we are aware of responsibility.

This is the end of the song, but not of the story. If the story ended, leaving us only with responsibility, I’d be as depressed as any of the existentialists. However, as the Bible says, “He (God) gives more grace.” Grace empowers us to deal with life in the interim – the world as we know it. Grace also reconnects us with the source of all responsibility, lifting it again off of our shoulders (Come, he who is burdened …). Grace empowers us to mow the grass, as it were, and to get back to laying in the grass.

But I know a place where we can go
That’s still untouched by man
We’ll sit and watch the clouds roll by
And the tall grass wave in the wind

The end of the innocence? No – grace is the beginning.

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