The Red Lizard

This morning I found myself praying an unusually specific prayer. As I’ve been writing, almost religiously, about my life and my story, and how it seems aimless somedays, and direct others, there’s this one underlying constant that binds it all together: Hope. I admit the last few weeks I’ve had a hard time finding any hope in such bleak circumstances, but I know its there…somewhere. 

Hope is what some may call an illusion that our mind manifests to get us through situations in life that are beyond our control, or potentially too much for us to mentally and/or emotionally handle. I’d like to believe that hope is more than that. Hope could be defined as: The belief that we are more than we feel capable, in our own lives, and the lives of others, which alters any definite outcome and suggests a possible reality that creates a world where the improbable becomes probable, the unreachable is within reach, and we become more than conquerers. Wouldn’t that be a great world to live in? Maybe I’m delusional. But if I am delusional, I suggest that the founding fathers of this country were delusional, the inventors of all that we see, taste, and can hold in our hands were also delusional. 

Still, there’s a voice I find myself constantly arguing with. Some might call it the voice of reason, though it seems much darker than that. I know when my voice of reason is speaking words that bring the light of logic to a situation, helping me to make better, more informed and intelligent decisions. No, this voice is something different entirely. It wasn’t until today that I actually acknowledged this voice, this entity, as something distinct in my life. For most of my life I was able to keep this entity at bay, but in the last year I’ve found this presence to be much more consistent in my life. 

J.R.R Tolken’s character Smeagol, later known as Gollum, arguably called this voice “My Precious”, in relation to the ring he so infamously sought after. Some might say it was “Gollum” that was the name of his other side…His sinful side. Dr. Jekyll named his dark side Mr. Hyde. In the novel series (And TV Series) “Dexter”; Dexter calls his entity his “Dark Passenger”. Perhaps my favorite illustration comes from C.S. Lewis’ book “The Great Divorce”. Hopefully you have read this fantastic story. For those who haven’t, Lewis writes about a world where Heaven and Hell are separated by a bus ride, which people from Hell can attain a one day visit to the outskirts of Heaven. When the Hell dwelling inhabitants reach the edge of Heaven, they appear as transparent, grey, Ghost-like beings. Everything of Heaven is abrasive. Even the blades of grass cause excruciating pain to their feet. Lewis inserts himself into the story as one who has died, gone to hell, and visits Heaven. Many have argued this book as proof that Lewis was a universalist, because of the story’s underlying message suggesting that all people have the option of obtaining salvation, even after being sent to Hell, though, I believe its much more than that. Hell is described vividly as a never ending city of dark houses and buildings, trapped in the twilight of evening, with an endless storm outpouring on all of the inhabitants. The glimpse Lewis gives us into this world is astoundingly terrifying, and yet relatable. The world of Heaven is equally as astounding, but in a contrary fashion. 

As we go on this journey through the one day visit of the edge of Heaven, we are greeted by many characters. One character in particular stands out, though. As Lewis’ character explores the terrain, having conversations with various people, including one man he so greatly respected and knew his writings quite well, his attention becomes focused on a man from afar. The man seems to have a creature on his shoulder that resembles a small red lizard. The man is approached by an unnaturally tall, fiery creature that resembled a giant man, too bright to look at directly, identified by the narrator as an Angel, called “The Burning One”. As the man is arguing with his lizard creature, he suddenly becomes silent, and with a smile on his face, changes direction and walks back towards the bus stop, until his walk is interrupted by a voice..”Off so soon?” The conversation takes a different tone when the angel persistently asks the Ghost if he may kill the creature on his shoulder. The man scours for every excuse that can be mustered. Finally, after much relentless pursuit by the angel, the man reluctantly gives permission to kill the lizard. A few moments later, the man is freed of the creature, as it flaps about on the ground nearby. The main character can’t believe his eyes, as the man grows taller directly before him in mere moments. As the man grows taller, he turns and notices the lizard is changing as well. The lizard grows into a glorious white stallion. As the man mounts the stallion, they ride with the speed of light towards the mountains of Heaven. 

Before the angel rids the Ghost of the lizard, the ghost admits his fear that by ridding him of the lizard, it will surely kill him as well. The angel assures him that he will not die. The Ghost angrily responds “Why, you’re hurting me now.” To which the angel responds “I never said it wouldn’t hurt you, I said it wouldn’t kill you.” Talk about subtly profound… 

We all have a lizard. We all have names for it. Some might call their lizard “Anorexia”, or “Greed”, or “Religion”. I call my lizard “Depression,” and “Doubt”. He speaks words into my life that cause a series of events to occur in the recesses of my mind that affect my whole being. I’ve found over time that mere conversations, relationships, and community often drown out the voice of Depression, but busy things can only suppress it for so long, and in the quiet of the night, as my head hits my pillow, the voice whispers. Soon the whispers are much more like a megaphone in my ear, setting the bar for the volume in which all else must compete. This voice tells me “No one will love you,” “You aren’t worth anyone’s time,” and You will never live up to to the man you want to be,” things of the like. At first its easy for me to argue that those are silly lies, and that I have the ability to overcome those lies. But after a while, its much harder to ignore, much harder to argue with. Eventually I become consumed by these lies. Every time someone gives me encouragement, the voice is always there to remind me that I’m not what they think I am, that I fall short of everything people will ever want of me, that I’ll never be enough. 

A few years ago I heard a song by a group called Shane & Shane. Now, I don’t usually listen to Christian music. I have my opinions about it as a whole, and they aren’t positive opinions. But I’ve always respected a lot of what these guys put out so I gave this album a listen when it came out. Often times, I lay in my bed in the dark, with headphones on, and listen to an album from beginning to end. I remember the moment this song came on towards the end, it was a song called “Embracing Accusation”. As I listened through the lyrics, I remember realizing that this song was about something most “Christian” music writers wouldn’t dare touch with a ten foot pole. This song was about the lies the devil sings over us in our lives (or whispers). This song progresses through the lies we believe about ourselves:

The father of lies 
Coming to steal 
Kill and destroy 
All my hopes of being good enough 
I hear him saying cursed are the ones 
Who can’t abide 
He’s right 
Alleluia he’s right! 

The devil is preaching 
The song of the redeemed 
That I am cursed and gone astray 
I cannot gain salvation 
Embracing accusation 

Could the father of lies 
Be telling the truth 
Of God to me tonight? 
If the penalty of sin is death 
Then death is mine 
I hear him saying cursed are the ones 
Who can’t abide 
He’s right 
Alleluia he’s right! 

Oh the devil’s singing over me 
An age old song 
That I am cursed and gone astray 
Singing the first verse so conveniently 
He’s forgotten the refrain 
Jesus saves! 

He redeemed us from the curse of the law

 

 

Most things don’t make me too emotional, but I admit this song brought tears to my eyes, and then some. It was in this moment that I first acknowledged my “lizard.” This crippling lie of doubt that overshadows my life every day: YOU ARE NOT ENOUGH. Isn’t that such an ironic lie? In that moment I heard the song, I realized the lies I so easily believe about myself are in fact true! It was then that I was able to sing for myself “Alleluia, he’s right!” 

It would be so convenient for me to always have this realization as a reality in my life, but I often believe only half of that truth. I too quickly accept the truth that I am not enough, without waiting for the refrain. Its true, I am not enough, but the second part to this truth is that Jesus is enough. He was enough on the Cross, He was enough to overcome death, and He’s enough to kill the demons in my life that whisper half truths into my heart at its most vulnerable moments. 

It was in the prayer I prayed this morning that all of this became real to me again. My prayer was simply “God, thrust my heart into a holy stillness. Drown out the voice of Depression in my life with your Love. You’re what I need right now. GIve me the strength to be still before you.” 

We live most of our lives on the edge of Heaven, embracing the lies of Hell. We accept the reality of an eternity suspended in the twilight, a mere beam of hope on the horizon that will never come. We think ourselves undeserving of even a full day in the fullness of Heaven, so we remain on the edge, not fully embracing what is freely available for us. All the while, God pursues us. In one ear we have the lies of Hell, and in the other ear we have another voice entirely, softly, patiently, persistently saying “May I kill it?” 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s