'Philip Seymour Hoffman Didn't Have to Die'

Jim Denison | Denison Forum on Truth and Culture | Wednesday, February 05, 2014

'Philip Seymour Hoffman Didn't Have to Die'


This headline caught my eye: "Philip Seymour Hoffman Didn't Have to Die." The author states that poisoning deaths, most of which are due to drugs, are now the leading cause of accidental death in America. She recommends three ways to help someone in danger of dying from an overdose: get immediate help for them, don't let them sleep it off, and use naxolone to reverse drug effects.

I would add a fourth: build a drawbridge for the soul.

In The Inner Voice of Love, Henri Nouwen writes: "Think of a medieval castle surrounded by a moat. The drawbridge is the only access to the interior of the castle. The lord of the castle must have the power to decide when to draw the bridge and when to let it down. Without such power, he can become the victim of enemies, strangers, and wanderers. He will never feel at peace in his own castle."

Nouwen continues: "It is important for you to control your own drawbridge. There must be times when you keep your bridge up and have the opportunity to be alone or only with those to whom you feel close. Never allow yourself to become public property, where anyone can walk in and out at will." Then comes the sentence that arrested me: "You might think you are being generous in giving access to anyone who wants to enter or leave, but you will soon find yourself losing your soul."

Frederick Buechner is one of my favorite theologians and novelists. When he was ten years old, his father committed suicide. Buechner said of him: "My father was a fine swimmer and a wonderful dancer. He was at home everywhere, but in another sense, he had no private home inside of himself. Therefore, when trouble forced him home, there was nowhere to go. He had no home, or if he ever had one, he had forgotten the way to get there. He died of homesickness."

I wonder if the same thing happened to Philip Seymour Hoffman. He was turned off by his religious experiences as a child, but his perspective changed when one of his sisters became an evangelical Christian. He went to meetings with her, which he described as "so heartfelt and emotional. Nothing about it felt crazy at all. And my sister was certainly the sanest person you could ever meet. It all felt very real, very guttural, even rebellious." Hoffman described himself as a believer and someone who prayed occasionally, but he resisted the total commitment to Christ his sister made.

I have no idea what led to his heroin use, and know that people of faith can still struggle with addiction. But I believe that the risen Christ, living as King of our castle, has a power to heal that no human possesses. The more we are alone with him, the more his Spirit can transfuse and empower us. I wrote Resurrected: Finding Your Victory In Christ, this year's Lenten devotional guide, to help readers encounter his transforming presence each day. Everything Jesus did in his body, he can now do in his Spirit.

When last did you lift the drawbridge to your soul?

NOTE: You can purchase copies of Resurrected: Finding Your Victory In Christ by clicking this link.

Publication date: February 5, 2014

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