As long as my breath is in me and the spirit of God is in my nostrils, my lips will not speak falsehood, and my tongue will not utter deceit. – Job 27: 3-4
‘Honesty is the bare-bones expression of faith.’ – Jack Levison
I admire an honest struggle. Even if the truth you bring to the struggle seems, to me, to be somewhat askew. None of us have a corner on the whole, untattered truth, anyway. But, if we come to the encounter all dressed up in pretense and pretext, we have not really come at all.
Only an honest soul is actually there, can actually engage, brings the self that is the vital element that relationship really requires.
I’ve worn the patina of ‘should’ for so long that it has stained my skin that funny green. I’ve been oxidized and only that shell of pretense faces the world. I hardly know what lies beneath. I’ve kept the oxygen on the outside – refused to draw it deeply in – afraid of what it might wake within me.
What dragons lie sleeping in my inner hall? What fire would fly from their nostrils, if they were to wake? I’d rather let sleeping dragons lie, even though their bulky forms fill my inner chambers with slumbering meat. If I wake them … I’d have to face them.
And I do have dragons. Lazy, selfish dragons that hoard the fools gold – the possessions and reputation and fortitude that I think I could possess, if I were who I should be, instead of who I really am. That ‘stellar’ me – the one that tends the dragons – does not breathe the truth. And, so, I cannot come to life. I cannot offer the gifts I actually do have because I envy the gifts I wish were mine – the gifts that I imagine would build me up, would make me worthy of drawing breath.
See? The dragons sing lies into my ears, weaving smoky dreams of backward realities – where worthiness precedes the breath of grace; where God loves me because of who I am, rather than because of Who-God-Is.
Shhh! I’ll just sneak around this sleeping bulk. I’ll just ignore the scaly skin and smoky lies. No need to face this giant directly, right? Except, of course, that honesty requires it.
What a quandary! I cannot honestly avoid the reality that I am not the strong and resolute soul I fancy. Yet, strength and resolution are required to fight a dragon. What shall I do?
I find a stone in the back of the chamber, where I sit myself down. My head in my hands, my heart in turmoil, I start to sob, silently, desperately. I take one shuddering breath and all is changed. I’ve dared – whether by accident or not – to take that first breath. It hits the back of my throat with fire to match a dragon’s flame. It burns me deep. I stand. The dragons stir and whirl to face me and the room is filled with fire – all hot and red and violent.
And when it is over – it seems to resolve itself without my intervention – when it is over the dragons are gone. Only some old, scaly skins are left upon a pile of silly trinkets in the corner. And, though I am smudged and my clothes in disarray, I do remain.
I breathe in. The air is crisp and clean, no longer tinged with smoke. It hits the back of my heart with a shiver of hope. Perhaps … perhaps … this me, this honest me, this real me … is the one that God so loved … that God so loves. What a miracle of grace! What a breath of life!
In truth, true life begins with truth – or at least with honesty – which is as close as I can get.
[photo by Luis Alejandro Bernal Romero per cc 2.0]
[This meditation was sparked in response to ‘Day 2’ in Forty Days with the Holy Spirit: Fresh Air for Every Day by Jack Levison.]