What Is Your Hotel California?

Are you familiar with these haunting lyrics from the song Hotel California, “You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave?” These lyrics contain an important spiritual message because all of us are trapped in a “Hotel California” of our own making. Find the key, and learn how to escape from your hotel in today’s message.

Ethan Reese is the author of an article I ran across on the website americansongwriter.com. There he revisits the meaning of the song Hotel California. He refers to the song as “perhaps the greatest song ever written about the duality of the American experience and the human condition.”

His article reveals how Glenn Frey of the Eagles found his inspiration for the song. He writes, “It all started with Glenn Frey wanting to do something strange, just to see if he and the band could. So they turned to a hazy and nightmarish novel written by John Fowles in 1965, called The Magus, where a depressive yet eager young wanderer with nothing finds himself charmed by a wealthy Greek recluse whose powers of splendor and decadence end up detaching the young man from reality as he knows it, resulting in tragedy and loss.” 

Both the book and the song show us how someone can go from a curiosity to a sense of darkness and despondence. By listening to the song, you can see how fame and success look good and appealing, but success is fleeting, leaving those who pursue it crushed under the weight of excess. Ultimately the song tells the story of rising, falling and entrapment.

You can listen to the song here:

It is interesting to compare the song and its underlying meaning to 1 Timothy 6:9 which states, “Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction.” According to Reese’s article, some of the band members said the song is about, “darkness and light,” while others said, “it’s about the self-destruction that comes from greed and hedonism.”

I see a direct parallel between the lyrics, “You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave,” and sin. Like Hotel California, sin, with all its allure, draws us in and won’t let us go. We become prisoners of our own device. Throughout life, we struggle against the principalities and evil spirits of this present darkness. We try over and over to stab the beast of sinful desire with the steely knife of prayer, but it seems no matter how many times we stab it, we just can’t kill the beast.

The reality of a Christian life is this, the more we do what is good the freer we become, and the more we act in disobedience to God’s design, the abuse of our free will makes us a slave to sin and we lock ourselves in our Hotel California. Proverbs 29:6 says it this way, “The sin of the wicked is a trap, but the just run along joyfully.”

Romans 3:23 makes it clear that we all struggle with sin, and Romans 7:23 reminds us that we all become captive to the law of sin that dwells in our members. So, what must we do? How do we escape from our hotel? How do we get free? Both John the Baptist and Jesus told us to repent and be changed.

Repentance is the first step and many find it the easier step. Christian author, Scott Hahn wrote, “If we fail to repent- through self-denial and acts of penance- God allows us to continue in sin, thereby forming a habit, a vice, which darkens our intellect and weakens our wills.” 

Change is the second step, but most of us find that changing our behavior is a much harder step. Confession is the key to change. To confess means to “admit” we have sinned. Until we can be honest and admit our sins, those sins have control over us. James 5:16 states, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”

Everyone trapped by sin, needs to find a trusted confidant in Christ to whom they can openly and honestly admit their sins.  In Psalm 32:3–5 it is written, “Because I kept silent, my bones wasted away; I groaned all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength withered as in dry summer heat. Then I declared my sin to you; my guilt I did not hide. I said, “I confess my transgression to the LORD,” and you took away the guilt of my sin.”

Confession is an essential part of the Christian life. CONFESSION IS THE KEY THAT UNLOCKS OUR HOTEL CALIFORNIA AND ALLOWS US TO ESCAPE. 1 John 1:9 states, “If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.” As I stated at the beginning, we are all trapped in a Hotel California of our own making. What’s yours? Now, during the Season of Advent which has just begun, let’s recommit ourselves to finding freedom by confessing those sins that continually tell us “we can never leave.”

Heavenly Father, during this season of Advent, I long to make those changes that can set me free from the Hotel California effects of sin. Grant me the strength to come to you with the words, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.” Also Lord, please put a trusted confidant in my life with whom I can openly, and honestly, admit my sins. Amen!


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Brian Pusateri
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