Risk

The Dragon Boy

I love a good story, don’t you? The familiar narrative of good vs evil has been played out in a million ways from the sweetest of love stories to tales of warring nations. But the ones that really seem to stick with me are the stories of unassuming characters battling their own tendency for darkness.

It has been years since I’ve read The Chronicles of Narnia series but lately, I cannot seem to stop replaying “The Voyage of The Dawn Treader” over and over in my mind. In this beautiful allegory, the enemy that the beloved characters face is within themselves. The movie does not do it justice, turning the villain into a green mist that entices those it envelopes, drawing them to the edge of temptation. It’s an Oz-ified version of the Smoke Monster from Lost and it is not in line with the book. But, if I were Lucy, Eustace, and the others, I would want the green mist to be the culprit. At least there would be someone or something to blame.

But we do not get off that easily, nor do Lewis’ characters. Lucy stands, with the power to make herself more beautiful staring her in the face, and she can feel her flesh begging for her to speak the words. She can hear her insecurities whispering the way in her ear. Edmund stands at the edge of a lake of endless riches and his mind runs wild, dreaming of the status he could purchase with the gold this lake could give. His insecurities nudge him from behind. And braggadocios Eustace, always positioning himself as the highest, steps full into an opportunity to make more of himself. And what he discovers is that he has lost himself completely. He becomes a beast, a dragon. The hardness of his heart now worn as skin.

I have felt it too, the hardening of my heart, the threshold of temptation, my insecurities wooing me, softly calling to me to speak the words, hoard the riches, position myself higher. The moments I can feel that struggle taking place are probably good for me. Certainly better than me not noticing the darkness creeping in at all. But we must be honest about our scales. We do not always turn away from the temptation. Sometimes, we step full into the green mist of our own brokenness and our hearts get a little harder and we board up our souls in scaly skin.

But, there is one who comes with compassion. He comes with strength and truth and he sets to work on our dragon armor. See, it was a glimpse of Aslan that gave Lucy and Edmund the strength and wisdom to step away from the temptations. And it was Aslan who was courageous and kind enough to approach an arrogant, obnoxious boy, now enslaved and broken by his own darkness, in order that He might set him free. So Aslan peels and pulls back the scales, causing pain but so that there might be healing. Then raw from the tearing of the callouses, Eustace is submerged in healing water and finds himself once again. No longer beast…neither in flesh or in soul…but a boy with a heart ready to be low, to walk humbly, to enjoy life.

There is One who fights for us. He loves us and His heart breaks for our hardened hearts. It is His joy to loose the hold of the darkness, of the dragon-skin prison we wear. He will heal us though it might seem at first He is slaying us.

May we more often surrender to the first glimpse of our gentle Lion-King and turn to fight the darkness with Him. The first step, in either direction, is always surrender. We will surrender to the Lion or to the darkness in us.  He will have mercy on whom He has mercy, may we surrender to the only merciful King.

{No} Fear

When I was a child, I had a “No Fear” shirt. Do you remember these shirts? If not, it’s because you are a young one, so you will just have to believe me when I tell you they were super cool.

The other day, I was having a conversation with myself. Don’t judge. You do it to. I don’t really remember what “we” were discussing, but I do recall interrupting myself and saying, “No fear.” And immediately I had a mental image of my awkward, basketball-loving junior high self sporting that awesome t-shirt. “We” laughed for a bit about that silly trend before getting back to why on earth that phrase came up in conversation.

It doesn’t take a lion trainer to figure it out. (Anyone else bored with “it doesn’t take a rocket scientist”?) “No fear” came to mind because I DO fear. Often. I am terrified. I am terrified that  my circumstances won’t change, that I don’t have what it takes to reach my goals, that people won’t think my best amounts to much at all. That I. Will. Fail.

Or if I succeed, that success will be a let down.

Do you know what fear kept people from in scripture?

In Deuteronomy chapter one, we see that it kept an entire generation from seeing the land The Lord had promised His people. They trembled in fear and said, “The people are taller and stronger than we are; the cities are large with walls up to the sky.”  Moses reminded them, “Do not be terrified. Do not be afraid of them. The Lord, your God, who is going before you will fight for you, as He did in Egypt before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how The Lord, your God, carried you as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” But, they let fear win. They stopped moving forward because their fear was bigger than their faith. God was too little in their eyes to do what He promised, to lead them to victory.

Sarah told her husband, Abraham, to sleep with another woman. She was afraid God wasn’t big enough to keep His promise to give them a child, so she made her own way. And in doing so, she gave up the peace of her household. She brought havoc into another woman’s life. And the entire world is still feeling the effects of her decision.

Peter was afraid too. His fear looked like shame. But what is shame if it isn’t fear we cannot be loved or useful to Christ after the things we have done? In Peter’s fear, he went back to the familiar. He ignored that Jesus had renamed him “The Rock” and promised the church would be built through faith like his. He gave up the potential God himself had spoken over him and Peter returned to the safe life…fishing. Not for men, but for fish. He went back to casting his nets day after day never knowing whether it would be a good day or a bad day.

Isn’t that just ridiculous? I mean, when we read these stories, it is so clear these people were making awful choices! You gave up what God had PROMISED because you were afraid? Of what? So what if the people are big? So what if it is taking longer than you thought? So WHAT if you made a fool out of yourself and made one of the worst mistakes of your life? God has already told you he is giving this future to you. Hello!

But I do the same thing. I mean, God has not told me I will be a sucessful musician or that I will ever get to go back to India or that I will ever be married. But, He has promised to take care of me, to lead me in victory, to direct my steps, to love me, to use me, to mold me. He has promised the best for me. So, why would I let fear keep me from moving forward?

It is the what ifs that hold me back. What if I find out I’m terrible at this? What if I’m really good at it but no one cares? What if I’m teaching and lose my train of thought? What if no one reads what I write? What if EVERYONE reads what I write? What if What if What if?????

STOP!

Stop what ifing. Ok..So WHAT IF those things happen? Isn’t God big enough to handle it? Do I really think one of those things could throw His entire plan off course sending me into a tailspin till I die sad and alone at the age of 93?

Of course He is big enough. He is bigger and stronger than all my mistakes, then anyone else’s thoughts towards me, than any walls and oceans and armies that threaten to keep me from the things God has in store for me.

So, no fear. I will choose, every second of every day. I will decide over and over and over again to not be afraid. To not let fear keep me from receiving the fulfillments of all His promises towards me. I will choose to remember that my God is big enough, strong enough, and He loves me more than enough to lead me in victory.

I love the speech that Samuel gives the people in 1 Samuel 12.

Do not be afraid. You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own. As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.  But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish.”

To you and to me: Do not be afraid. Yes, you have made some stupid decisions, but the Lord called you because He wanted to. Fear Him. Love Him. Look at all He has already done for you and keep moving forward.


Originally posted on The Truths of Becoming: 1/8/11

The Piano Lesson

Since the beginning of our relationship, she has been staring at me from across the room. Every now and then, I would open her up and run my fingers along the ivories, hoping the years of lessons would come back like riding a bicycle. Unfortunately, the piano is not a bicycle and my fingers don’t remember the dance that they reluctantly practiced all those years ago.

See, two years ago, I acquired this piano. She is quite possibly the most beautiful of all my belongings. She made the move with me from a four bedroom house in the city to my one bedroom suburban apartment. And yet, since being in my care, she has never lived her purpose. Instead, she has served as a shelf, a home for books and photos and the dvd player. The piano has played the background of many photos and she does it well. Still, a piano is meant for more.

I had the best of intentions when I acquired her. I planned to sit and force my fingers to find their way again. I pulled out my old lesson books and my music theory text book. I had good intentions.

But good intentions are not the same as intentional actions.

I don’t know your story, but perhaps you are feeling like my piano. Perhaps you have been aching for the more you were made to be. It’s a story we all have lived, waiting for someone to recognize that we are meant for more than a pretty picture. We wait for permission to share the song locked up in our souls, aching to be played. A piano must wait for someone to come along and put her to use, but you and I…what are we waiting for?

You have good intentions to serve in your church but no one has asked? Be intentional in your actions and offer your help. You have good intentions to make friends in your new neighborhood but your neighbors stay locked away behind busy schedules and drawn curtains? Be intentional in your actions and knock on a door. Always meant to write a book, learn that skill, make the phone call? Whose permission are we waiting for?

If the answer is anyone other than the One who created us, then it’s time to stop waiting. And if the answer is the One who created us, then let us be very sure we are not putting words in His mouth. He may very well ask us to wait, but He will not ask us to let our strings grow rusty and our keys sticky beyond use. So let us not mistake our fear for His forbiddance of living within our purpose.

I sold my piano this week. I had to be honest with myself about the reality of our relationship. There are many skills I’d love to learn. I do not have the time nor the mental capacity to learn it all and do it well. So, I am sending my beloved bookshelf off to a home where she will live her purpose. She will belong to a piano teacher and the fingers of children will learn to dance along her keys.

You may have many passions and the thought of choosing a path may paralyze your heart. It’s time, friend. Be honest about what you are made for. Be honest about what is the envious dream of another life and what is wired into your being. And when it still feels there are a million streams flowing from your soul, make a choice and take a step. You may find that the streams cross a ways down the road but if you keep waiting for permission, you will most certainly find nothing but bitterness towards all those who withheld it. No matter how much you plan to live with purpose, it is in the walking that purpose is found.

What are you waiting for? Be brave. And remember, good intentions are not the same as intentional actions.