Monday, May 16, 2016

A Poisoned Life

In the final rendition of Peter Shaffer's play Amadeus, the envious and arrogant Antonio Salieri admits to poisoning Mozart, though not in the way one would think:

VOGLER:  Why? Why? Why? Why add to your misery by confessing to murder? You didn't kill him.
OLD SALIERI:  I did.
VOGLER: No, you didn't!
OLD SALIERI: I poisoned his life.

You see, while music came easily and beautifully to Mozart, Salieri, who longed to become a great musician, simply didn't have the talent to compete with someone of Mozart's degree.  This angered Salieri, especially when he learned that Mozart was a man of questionable character and not like him, a devout Catholic, who honored God's ways.  He reasoned that if God was going to gift someone with such musical talent, it should be someone who was pure and right in their living, like him.  Despite his many attempts to destroy Mozart and his musical creations, the famed musician only gained popularity while Salieri was pushed to the background.

In reading the account above, it seems like Salieri's confession is a change of heart.  After the death of Mozart, he admits to poisoning his life with his many attempts to destroy the man he envied, and for a moment, it seems there is hope for the old man.  Unfortunately, bitterness had already rooted itself deep within his heart, and he wasn't willing to release it.

OLD SALIERI: Don't pity me. Pity yourself. You serve a wicked God. He killed Mozart, not I. Took him, snatched him away, without pity. He destroyed His beloved rather than let a mediocrity like me get the smallest share in his glory. He doesn't care. Understand that. God cares nothing for the man He denies and nothing either for the man He uses. He broke Mozart in half when He'd finished with him, and threw him away. Like an old, worn out flute. . . Goodbye, Father. I'll speak for you. I speak for all mediocrities in the world. I am their champion. I am their patron saint. On their behalf, I deny Him, your God of no mercy. Your God, who tortures men with longings they can never fulfill. He may forgive me; I shall never forgive Him.

And so, the story ends, with Salieri dying in his bitter, unforgiving state. I don't know about you, but reading his account is enough to make my skin crawl.  I know it's a work of fiction, but there are still so many true elements contained within this tale.  For example, envy and bitterness are not mere components of the imagination.  They are very real and extremely dangerous.  Sadly, they are quite capable of turning our hearts away from God no matter how long we've served Him or how much we claim to love Him.

I wanted to share this account with you today as a warning.  It is human nature to have expectations of how we think our lives should be.  We have dreams, goals, and ambitions, but ultimately, we are not the ones in control.  That job belongs to God, and it is up to us to accept His will and way even when it clashes or contradicts our desires and expectations.  If we don't, we are prone to give way to discontentment, envy, anger, and bitterness.  It may start small, as did Salieri's, but if allowed to run its course, it can ultimately destroy us and our relationship with God.  How miserable a life Salieri must have lived--never able to enjoy life because he was always complaining that it wasn't the way it should be.  How many joys and opportunities did he miss out on because he wasn't willing to accept that God knew best?

Let us learn from Salieri's mistake. Take heed.  Watch out for bitterness, envy and discontentment.  Whenever you find yourself thinking, It's not fair or Why doesn't God do something like that for me, take those thoughts into captivity and surrender them to God.  Then, remind yourself how good God has been and how much He loves you.  Bury yourself in the truths of God's Word and choke those pesky weeds of envy and bitterness to death because the fact is, either you kill them, or they'll kill you!

But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. - James 3:14

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