Three years ago today, at the age of 50, the talent and tragedy of Michael Jackson (1959-2009) came to an end. Jackson was a man who imagined himself as the master of his own destiny, but he never quite found the driver’s seat.

On the day of his death, I memorialized Jackson’s life and death in my poem below.

I am recognized the world over,
but see a stranger in the mirror.
I’m made in the everlasting image of God,
but surgery failed to bring me nearer.

I hide behind a surgical mask,
but everyone sees my pain.
I live in a land of fantasy,
but ghosts are never slain.

I search for joy in childlike things,
but peace eludes my plaintiff quest.
I was crowned by all ‘The King of Pop’,
but never found a place to rest

I destined my life
I stayed in control
I was the master of my fate;
The captain of my soul*


* The final two lines of this stanza are adapted from William Henley’s poem “Invictus” which, according to Justin Taylor, was quoted by Jackson in one of his albums.

Dr. J.R. Miller is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. Outside work, he is a church planter. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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