Friday, December 12, 2008

Killing Lizards

One of the truly great things about the U.S. is their public library system. Last week I traveled to North Carolina, a journey of 32 hours driving up and back. Before leaving my home I visited my local library and checked out some books on CD. Listening to books is a heck of a lot more entertaining than listening to talk radio or music – and they keep me awake as I look down the long corridor of Interstate 40.

One of the books I listened to was The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis. The plot is that of ghosts who have taken a bus from purgatory to heaven (or at least it will be heaven if they choose to stay). They are there to see if they really want to enter into heaven, or catch the bus back to purgatory. If they choose to stay, there are conditions. The people in this drama range from a woman who insists she see her son who she loved on earth (though her love was more for self and her needs than for her son), a theologian who didn’t appreciate the entrance requirements for heaven (in his case humility) because he was not recognized for his scholarship, a wife who didn’t want to meet her dead husband unless she could tell him how to live his life (as she did on earth).

In one scene there is a man walking about with a ugly little creature on his shoulder, a red lizard. He kept talking to the creature, “Get away from me. Shut up!” A fiery angel approaches the man and asks in a stern voice, “Do you want me to kill it?” The man is stunned and argues for sometime with the angel, insisting he doesn’t really want the creature killed, he merely wants it silenced. With each argument the angel repeats the question, “Do you want me to kill it?” The ghost is afraid; if the angel kills the creature he, too, will be hurt, even die.

I take it the creature represents those “besetting sins” (Hebrews 12:1), that all men and women must deal with in life, those habits that keep us from running the good race toward the reward of our salvation. Our creature may be pride, selfishness, lust, insecurities, doubt, an addiction, laziness or perhaps misplaced affection. Our little creature, though annoying, has become a fixture in our lives and, though we loathe the little reptile, we can’t seem to muster the courage to just kill the damn thing.

In Lewis’ story, the ghost FINALLY consents to the elimination of the little read creature and the lizard writhes in ghastly pain in its demise. Remarkably the creature becomes transformed into a magnificent stallion.

As I continued my journey down the highway, I thought of all the little red lizards in my life and prayed that God will give me courage to kill that which keeps me from being transformed into the image of the One who loves me and wants the best for me. “Do you want me to kill it?” He says to me. “Yes, Lord. Even though I am afraid, kill the little beast.