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Vanity February 25, 2015

Posted by michaelnjohns in Uncategorized.

Vanity had a reason to be vain.  Also Known As Denise Matthews, she was a singer, an actress, a model, until she turned her back on her identity and reinvented herself.  Or rather, I think she would say she allowed herself to be reinvented. Back in the day, I really admired her character, and perhaps I did a little more than admire.  I thought she was the sweetest thing in the movie “The Last Dragon,” though.

She survived drug abuse and a near-death experience, she says, through the grace of God answering her prayer.  Whatever motivates a positive, lasting change is a good thing, I say.  Whatever motivates a positive, temporary change is a New Years’ Resolution.  And she’s started preaching about Jesus.  I’m not acquainted with the specifics of her message about Jesus, but I mean to check it out.

Is there hope for me to change?  But wait.  I don’t really have a reason for any personal vanity. So maybe I don’t need to change.  Except the flaws.  And the stuff I do that’s “wrong.”  Remember “How to Train Your Dragon?”  (I am on a Dragon Roll today, aren’t I?  Hmm.  Dragon Roll sounds like a great name for a Chinese restaurant.)  I picture Stoic the Vast here.  Hiccup, his son, isn’t the robust, overly muscular Viking hero who would inherit leadership of the tribe.  And his father has obviously let Hiccup in on his feelings:

Hiccup: He never listens!
Gobber: Well, it runs in the family.
Hiccup: And when he does, it’s always with this… disappointed scowl, like someone skimped on the meat in his sandwich.[imitating Stoick The Vast:]
Hiccup: “Excuse me, barmaid! I’m afraid you brought me the wrong offspring! I ordered an extra-large boy with beefy arms, extra guts and glory on the side. This here, this is a talking fish-bone!”
Gobber: Now, you’re thinkin’ about this all wrong. It’s not so much what you *look* like, it’s what’s *inside* that he can’t stand.
Hiccup: [sarcastic] Thank you for summing that up.

And his dad isn’t really any more merciful when interacting with his son:

Stoick: This is *serious*, son. When you carry this axe, you carry all of us with you. Which means, you walk like us, you talk like us, and you think like us. No more of… this! [gestures to all of Hiccup]
Hiccup: [miffed] You just gestured to *all* of me.
Stoick: Deal?
Hiccup: This conversation is feeling very one-sided…
Stoick: *Deal*?

Somehow it’s easy for me to picture God as being like Stoick, and Gobber as a kind of devil’s advocate for God, sort of agreeing with my flaws, as perceived by God.  Hiccup and I have no choice but to accept the one-sided” deal, no more of… this!”  And “this,” unfortunately, is all of me.

If I’m flawed, is there really any hope for me to improve?  I mean, “I was born this way,” as the Lady Gaga song famously brags, even if I’m not “on the right track, baby.”  We live in an era that preaches self-acceptance, proclaims things that used to be perceived as “wrong” as now supposedly socially acceptable.  But are they?  What if there really is a Divine Design, and I’m not living up to the expectation of the Designer?  What if doing it my way, because it’s easy, because it feels good, because I want to, is doing it the wrong way?  Would I be better if I did it the way the Designer intended?

Miss Matthews, if she’s a follower of Jesus now, is teaching something she thinks Jesus taught.  If I read it right, Jesus said there is such a thing as “sin,” although not explicitly, in his first sermons in Matthew chapters 3 and 4.  He says “repent,” which I have been told means “turn around.”  He tells that lady “caught in the very act of adultery” (eww?) that he doesn’t condemn her, but that she should “go and sin no more.”  And Jesus also told people he’s not abolishing the law, but he’s doing what it says.  The whole rest of the Bible talks about being under a new thing called Grace, where we are supposed to still work it out and help people who are seeking their way through it.

There were hundreds of little picayune laws in the Old Testament.  More than 500.  And then there were special provisos, legal things people were supposed to do to make things right.  Who can keep track of all that except lawyers and cops?  Not me.  I need it simple.

The most important commandments, Jesus boiled down to two, from the top ten list:  From the first 4, Love God.  From the last 6, Love Others.  But if we love God we should do what he wants, live according to His design, first, and then, after we get it right with God, we can finally get it right with others.   I’m still working out how to get that first part right, so sorry, I probably offend you but I can’t deal with that right now.  I’m busy with my own issues, so you’ll just have to forgive me.  Or not.  “I can’t make you love me if you don’t,” says Bonnie Raitt’s song by Reid and Shamblin.

The Jesus in the Bible only tells me to turn away from my behavior choices, and the rest suggests fixing “…this” is up to Him, and He’ll do it for me, as long as I’m seeking Him, from the inside out.  Alas for you, MY transformation is taking a LONG time.  At this rate I’ll get it right 30 years after I’m dead, so if you’re the forgiving sort just keep forgiving, and if you’re not, well, that’s kind of tough.

One of the funniest things in the Bible is Jesus talking about the guy who wants to help his friend with the speck in his eye.  It’s bugging the guy who wants to help more than it’s bugging the friend.  And the really funny part of the story is, the one who wants to help his friend has a blinding huge 2×4 in his eye, so how can he even see to help his friend with the little speck?  (Matthew 7)  I don’t like everything I read, but that is funny.

I think Jesus had a sense of humor about life, if this story may serve as an example, and I’m pretty sure he understood humans.  I just wish I understood Him better.  If I did, maybe I’d understand myself better.  And maybe I’d understand all you crazy people. May God help me, I just don’t.  My dad stole from an old movie I don’t remember, and the movie probably stole from Robert Owen, and Robert Owen probably stole from someone else, but the quote goes, “All the world’s pixielated, save thee and me, and oft times I worry about thee.”  I’ll just up and say it.  You probably think I’m nuts.  But you all really are.  That doesn’t stop me from liking your brand of crazy, though.  I really do.

There’s a life changing experience in the story of Miss Matthews.  It’s impressive, if it’s real.

Hiccup couldn’t get his dad to understand him, so he turned to someone else to have a sounding board, to share his heartfelt feelings, and that person was Gobber.  Unfortunate.  Gobber was one of Stoick’s friends, and he reflected Stoick’s impression of Hiccup, but perhaps with a bit more hope that Hiccup would actually change and grow into the image Stoick wanted him to.  Hiccup’s mentor reminds me of a guilty conscience, pointing to someone’s perception of the truth.  Gobber says, “Now, you’re thinkin’ about this all wrong. It’s not so much what you *look* like, it’s what’s *inside* that he can’t stand.”  Or maybe he’s right, and that’s how God looks at us.  It’s not the outside stuff, our look, that God doesn’t like, it’s what’s on the inside that he can’t stand.  Jesus famously called the Pharisees in Matthew 23 “whitewashed tombs full of dead man’s bones.”  It means they looked great on the outside, but on the inside they were putrid, beyond sickeningly gross.

Is there hope for me?  I doubt it.  But if Miss Matthews can turn around, maybe there’s hope for me after all.

Is there hope for you?  I doubt it.  But hey, prove me wrong!  After all, I’m the guy with the 2×4 in my eye.



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