Revelation 17 is where we met the infamous and pretty (on the outside) ugly (on the inside) prostitute Babylon who seduced God’s people into spiritual adultery (idolatry). Her partner in crime, the Beast, betrayed and brutally destroyed her. Revelation 18 goes on to describe the fall of a place called Babylon and how residents responded to the destruction. In my opinion, this chapter is about what happens when gratitude is missing from the equation; when gratitude is not an integral part of daily living.
While the citizens of Babylon sob over their loss, an angel lays into them:
She (Babylon) has become a dwelling place for demons and a haunt for every impure spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal. For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries. Revelation 18:2-3
The imagery in these verses of a haunted place with detestable creatures and demons is creepy and reminds me of the TV show Supernatural. It describes a kind of hell on earth with corrupt leaders and an economy driven by greed. The use of the adjective excessive here is important. It implies that any pattern of behavior driving excess is destructive.
Feeling that one never has enough is incredibly damaging. Wholehearted gratitude was not demonstrated by the Babylonians and epoch loss was the consequence doled out by God in John’s vision. A line from Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell just popped into my head. Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what we’ve got til it’s gone?
Like the good cop in a good cop-bad cop shake down, another voice interrupts the society’s scolding to encourage people to turn away from Babylon. With a sense of urgency, it is explained that there’s still time to change and escape judgment. What goes around comes around describes the message here nicely.
I love Revelation 18:6; pour her a double portion from her own cup. Do you recall the prostitute in Babylon – Part 1 holding a golden cup filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries? When the good bartender pours Babs her next double, it definitely does not go down smoothly; it consumes her in fire.
Corrupt kings, ravenous merchants, and money-grubbing seafarers weep and wail over the swift and complete destruction of Babylon. Her fall terminates the source of their worldly wealth and power. If the people of Babylon had followed the advice of the good cop, they would have had spiritual fulfilment. They would have had no need to mourn; they would have understood the worthlessness of their loss.
When our most precious treasures include wellbeing and relationships and when we acknowledge they are more valuable than wealth and power, our fear of loss diminishes significantly. Feeling and expressing gratitude for what one has is fulfilling. It diametrically counters the feeling of never having enough: enough time, enough money, enough intelligence, enough respect, enough power, enough success, enough sleep, etc.
Here’s the thing; without gratitude one will never feel they have enough. One will always want more. This is why the kings and merchants and seafarers in Revelation 18 were devastated. They were overwhelmed by loss and lamented their lives of luxury. If I had been a Babylonian, would I have been grateful or would I have had a complete melt down?
After considering this question, I admit that I would probably have been hysterical. Clearly, I have work to do. It’s not that I’m ungrateful; I have tons to be grateful for and recognize how fortunate I am. It’s not that I want more stuff. It’s that to some degree, I still fear loss. There has been progress on my part though and I suspect it comes with age. Every challenge is an opportunity to be grateful for what really matters. When life happens, remember to take a few deep breaths and consciously choose peace over panic.
This chapter in Revelation demonstrates how quickly everything can change. The mighty Babylon is said to have been leveled in one hour. Although this is not likely to be meant literally, it made me think of the potential life changing events that occur within a few minutes. It softened my heart. At once I was compelled to express gratitude for all that I have. I found myself sending quick text messages to family and friends. Do you know of anyone who doesn’t need to hear how much they are loved and appreciated?
I find I am grateful now for the tiniest of things. A few weeks ago my husband and I patched together a bluebird house that had fallen to the ground over the winter and had broken into several pieces. The result was something sort of unsightly. In an uncharacteristic move, we hung it on a prominent tree in our front yard. Recently, we noticed a pair of birds had taken up residence; they were not bluebirds. After watching them for a while, my husband identified them as tufted titmice.
Apparently, tufted titmice nest in natural tree holes like the ones left by woodpeckers. Generally, they’ll leave bluebird houses alone. We learned however, that if a pair of tufted titmice choose a nest box, it’s likely they’ll continue to use it throughout their lives; the oldest known wild titmouse being at least thirteen years and three months. Wow, what a gift! We now find ourselves chatting on our front porch swing and watching the titmice nesting. Perhaps fledglings will fly from the nest one day while we’re watching. I’m so grateful these noble creatures found that rickety little house.
The last of my chicks has officially left the nest; he’s graduated and navigating the real world. It’s the natural order of things and the titmice have reminded me of that. I’m working hard to transition gracefully from parent to consultant. Whether or not my consulting services will be requested remains to be seen. I hope so.
As parents, our job is to develop an inner gyroscope in our children to successfully guide them throughout life and maintain their physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual balance. As consultants, we must simply be available when needed.
Of course learning life lessons is an ongoing process and we have a desire to pass our knowledge along. I heard the word desire defined recently as love waiting to happen. The hardest thing about empty nesting is that urge to continue parenting in an effort to protect adult sons and daughters from a world of hurt.
Unsolicited sharing, however, generates undesirable responses even when delivered with the purest of intentions. I know I must resist and trust that my children have developed strong discerning skills. They have flown the coop with solid intuitive instincts and I am incredibly grateful.
That being said, I’m going to avoid my own counsel and offer some unsolicited advice. Don’t miss the tiny miracles in front of you while in pursuit of great things. Let’s be grateful for the little things because with nurturing, they grow in magnificence.