Sunday, May 23, 2010

Chris Farley and Divine Grace

The notion of love is something that would be a wonderful thing. I don't think I've ever experienced it, other than the love of my family. At this point, it's something beyond my grasp. But I can imagine it, and longing for it makes me sad. -Chris Farley

I've just finished reading The Chris Farley Show, which was written by his brother, Tom Farley, Jr. The book is largely interviews with friends and associates of Chris, and it chronicles his life in show business up to his fateful death in the Hancock Building in Chicago.

What struck me most about Farley's life - especially his later struggles - was his constant consumption. His end desire was love and delight and joy, and yet that desire was something to be found within himself. Especially in his later days, he expressed in private conversations with friends, his desire to be free, to have joy, to find real love. And then he would time and time again go on benders, consuming all of the food that he could, drinking all day long, consuming copious amounts of drugs - all with the end goal of personal fulfillment. He would have nights where he would start drinking at 8 p.m. and he would still be partying and drinking by the next morning at 11 a.m.

In many ways, like King Solomon, Chris Farley did not deny himself even the slightest desire. He would use his money to ride around the biggest cities, hiring prostitutes, purchasing heroine, cocaine, and weed, and drinking far beyond what any of those with him could consume. All the while, he was a dreadful wreck, seeing occasional breaks in the clouds, through which he could glimpse the joy he sensed in his heart was out there, beyond his grasp (and it is most certainly beyond all our grasps without the power of God).

When Chris Farley died, he had been awake for four days straight, drinking, snorting coke, spending lots of money on prostitutes. As he was dying, the prostitute took a photo of him, stole his watch and started leaving the room. He then said to her the last thing he ever said to anybody: "Please, don't leave me."

He was a spiritual man who took some solace in his Catholic faith, but many reflected that Farley felt a constant need to prove himself worthy to God. According to his priest, Farley never seemed to move beyond this need to prove his worth to God. If only someone had told Chris that only by surrendering to Christ and admitting his inability to be worthy of God's love could one find freedom, joy, and unconditional love. In this book, one sees the frustration his friends have with Chris' poor decisions, but none of them have the framework of truth and reality to share in a way that is helpful or conducive to lasting joy. And of course, only Chris could have ultimately been responsible for his bad decisions and his destructive lifestyle.

When we consider that without the grace of God, none of us would practice restraint or moderation - lost or saved, I can't help but think that Farley's latter days illustrate all too well the place that we would all be at, given the means and the opportunity. Apart from the grace of God, none of us has the ability to bring joy into our lives. Without this grace, man can only turn inward to find fulfillment and satisfaction.

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