The man awaiting the verdict in the courtroom was a Yale Law Professor, owned several Picassos, drove a Rolls Royce, flew private jets and lived a life of an eccentric multi-millionaire Wall Street Investment Banker. Some would say a dream life.
“But he hit a brick wall when he bought the Biltmore property,” Phoenix reporters say. The mortgage was $17,250 a month, interest only. So, to pay for it, Michael Marin created a scheme. He set up a raffle, selling tickets at $25 a piece, to raise the $1million needed to pay off the home. The proceeds for the raffle were supposed to benefit a center for children in crisis.
In reality, the home was $2.5million, and the $1million mortgage was bogus. But the story is stranger. In 2009, the luxury home burned to the ground, and using scuba gear in his bedroom and a ladder, Marin barely escaped the smoke and flames. “I just happened to have the gear in my room and used it to breathe oxygen.” Local news even carried the amazing escape on the evening television broadcast.
Fire fighters arrived to find a man in scuba gear standing outside his burning home. But soon investigators discovered it was arson, his attempt to collect insurance money. He was arrested, and now in 2012, his trial had come to a tragic close. Watching the courtroom video, reporters describe what took place.
Upon hearing the guilty verdict, Marin dropped his head into his hands in despair. He then slid his hands up and appeared to place something in his mouth….and he took a drink.
He began to convulse at first lightly. But quickly it grows more violent. His attorneys called for help.
Marin hunched over, slowly collapsing to the ground as others rushed in to help. Someone asked for someone to call 911 and several people ran to help him…He was later declared dead.
I watched the courtroom video and wondered how this man arrived at this point. How did he live this way? Why did he die this way? And then I understood something.
I am Michael Marin—and so are you.
To be certain, the facts and idiosyncrasies are different. They are likely much less bizarre, but no less toxic. If we look closely into the mirror we will find a lot of Mr. Marin staring blankly back at us – perhaps more than we care to admit.
Marin created a false self, a life designed to impress, intimidate and control others. He manipulated people, circumstances, resources and his environment to keep that false self alive.
And so do we.
Robert Mulholland, in his book The Deeper Journey, challenges us to discover our true selves and to die to the false self, especially the religious false self.
Our religious false self hides its fear behind a wall of activity. Our religious false selves can be as frenetic in our religiosity as secular false selves are in their performance-oriented attempts to authenticate their identity and value. A welter of worship services, Bible studies, prayer meetings, accountability groups, fellowship meetings, retreats and workshops often enable us to calm our fears and assure ourselves that our religious identity and value is secure.
Like Michael Marin we are afraid of God and exposing our true self. We want the world to believe we are something we are not, that we are holier, wiser, more spiritual, courageous, faith-filled, righteous, correct, etc. We really want to be that person because we think God wants us to be that person – and we fear that others need us to be that person.
But being that person is so draining, demoralizing and shallow. Going deeper means letting go and putting to death the façade, the expectations of others, the moralizing of self-righteous pundits. It means, as Mulholland says, “being in God for the world” instead of “being in the world for God.”
It means being free.
More than ever we need people who are free to be what God made them to be, not what they think they should be or even want to be. We need people who see their true selves in partnership with the true God. To see God in all his unpredictability and mystery, wild and roaming the earth inviting us to join him in a kingdom-building adventure where we are fully alive.
Michael Marin did not die in that courtroom. He died years earlier, when simply being Michael who was not good enough for the world, not good enough for him. It happened when he chose to be alone with his false self instead of being fully alive, at rest in God.
The false self must die. It must be disconnected from the life support systems that keep it breathing.
It’s time for us to pull the plug.