Limitless undying love / Which shines around me like a million suns
And calls me on and on / Across the universe
-John Lennon, “Across the Universe”
Tell me this man didn’t have a glimpse of heaven when writing those words.
I believe John Lennon found heaven. Yes, he was, by all accounts, a mean-spirited youth… but wouldn’t being basically deserted by both your mother and father and raised by a strict, no-nonsense aunt contribute to such a temperament? He could be reflective and loving at times but cruel at others, saying rude and insulting things to people, making fun of the weak or those who were ‘different‘. He left his first wife, and was, he himself admitted, not a very good father to his first son, Julian. He used hard drugs and got obnoxiously drunk, to the point of being thrown out of nightclubs and throwing up in friends‘ toilets. He had extramarital affairs. He had the nerve to say that The Beatles were more popular than Jesus. A real loser, right?
Well, that’s half the story.
He figured it out. Later in his life, he decided he was happiest at home, with his new wife, Yoko, and young son, Sean. He began spending most of his time with them, relishing the role of family man. He cooked and did laundry. He took a hiatus from the music business, rarely performing in public, and when he did, he never accepted money… he would appear only on behalf of charities or as a favor to friends. He mellowed considerably and began to care more about others’ feelings. And, few seem to know of his follow-up quotes in a 1969 interview with Ken Seymour regarding his statement about The Beatles being bigger than Jesus: “The Beatles seem to me to have more influence over youth than Christ. Now I wasn’t saying that’s a good idea, ’cause I’m one of Christ’s biggest fans. And if I can turn the focus on the Beatles onto Christ’s message, then that’s what (I’m) here to do. If the Beatles get on the side of Christ, which (we) always were, and let people know that, then maybe the churches won’t be full, but there’ll be a lot of Christians dancing in the dance halls.” A story in Guideposts magazine (September 2008) told of a woman whose family had met him in the early 1970’s while visiting Japan. John, Yoko and Sean had wandered into their church one Sunday morning and sat down for the service, causing quite a stir. Someone asked him about his “Jesus” comment, to which he replied, “We’re just a music group. Don’t people know Jesus is far greater than we are?”
I’m giving more now than I take / A reinvented soul
Each needed difference that I make / Puts the pieces back to whole
-Tom Hipps & Gordy Overing, “From Ordinary”, from the album The Road So Far
There are stories that Lennon, at one point, indeed accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. Sources close to John have declared that he spent much time in the late 1970s watching TV evangelists like Billy Graham and Oral Roberts, and at one point declared himself “saved” and began using phrases like “Praise the Lord” and “Thank you Jesus”. Robert Rosen, a New York journalist who had access to Lennon‘s personal diary, writes that on a certain Palm Sunday, John “allowed himself to be touched by the love of Jesus Christ, and it drove him to tears of joy and ecstasy”. Alas, there are also reports that he later questioned, or even rejected, his Christianity because of Yoko‘s influence on him and her distaste for such things. Yet the story that grips me the most is the one that supposedly Yoko herself revealed: that about a week before his death, John Lennon, in tears, got down on his knees and screamed toward the heavens, “I WANT TO KNOW YOU!” Would God really refuse that desperate plea? And did it come to pass in a chilling, all-too-real way a week later as He welcomed John into Paradise?
The worst of us can turn our lives around. The dumbest of us can figure it out. The hopeless can make a new beginning. God is ready anytime we are, ready to meet us where we‘re at, if we only humble ourselves and ask for help, as John did and as I have done myself. I have found peace, and it’s because of that “limitless, undying love which shines around me like a million suns” that John Lennon sang about.
The wise leaders will shine with all the brightness of the sky
And those who have taught many people to do what is right will shine like the stars forever
-Daniel 12:3 (Good News Translation)