Beneath the Surface
Beneath the Surface
“There is a story for children, There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon, by Jack Kent. It’s a very simple tale, at least on the surface. It’s about a small boy, Billy Bixbee, who spies a dragon sitting on his bed one morning. It’s about the size of a house cat, and friendly. He tells his mother about it, but she tells him that there’s no such thing as a dragon. So, it starts to grow. It eats all of Billy’s pancakes. Soon it fills the whole house. Mom tries to vacuum, but she has to go in and out of the house through the widows because of the dragon everywhere. Then, the dragon runs off with the house. Billy’s dad comes home and there’s just an empty space, where he used to live. Mom still insists that the dragon does not exist, but Billy, who’s pretty much had it by now, insists, ‘There is a dragon, Mom’. Instantly, it starts to shrink. Soon, it’s cat-sized again. Mom, eyes reluctantly opened by this point, asks somewhat plaintively why it had to get so big. Billy quietly suggests: ‘maybe it wanted to be noticed’” (12 Rules for Life An Antidote to Chaos, Jordan B. Peterson p. 270).
Chaos Emerges Bit by Bit
One application that Peterson makes of the above children’s story is that often life is like that. Something small but dangerous is ignored in a marriage or a family. Unhappiness or resentment can pile up. When we sweep things under the rug that really need to be addressed, the dragon feasts on the crumbs. “But no one says anything… Communication would require admission of terrible emotions: resentment, terror, loneliness, despair, jealousy, frustration, hatred, boredom. Moment by moment, it’s easier to keep the peace. But in the background… the dragon grows. One day it bursts forth, in a form that no one can ignore. It lifts the very household from its foundations” (12 Rules, p. 271).
The Wisdom of Dealing With It Now
- “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault” (Matthew 18:15).
- “Admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
- “Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness” (James 1:21).
- “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (1 Peter 2:1).
- “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).
The Danger of Ignoring the Dragon
- “And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7).
Even though everyone is tempted (1 Corinthians 10:13) and all have sinned (Romans 3:23). In the above passage Cain was specifically told that the sinful anger that simmered underneath the surface of his life desired him. If I don’t deal with and address the sinful attitudes and actions in my own life, they are not going to get bored with me and simply find someone else. Whatever sin I allow into my own life, desires to consume me. It is not simply going to go away with the natural passage of time. Cain’s unresolved anger eventually lifted the house off its foundation, and lead to murder and eternal alienation from God.
- Lust moved the godly king David, a man after God’s own heart to commit adultery with the wives of one of his most loyal soldiers and then have that man murdered (2 Samuel 11).
- Pride, lust and power moved the incredibly wise Solomon, the author of so many of the Proverbs to collect foreign women as wives and worship their gods (1 Kings 11:2).
- Greed that was unaddressed, moved Judas, an apostle of Christ, one filled with the Holy Spirit and had the ability to work miracles, to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (John 12:6).
Get Specific about the Problem
“Why remain vague, when it renders life stagnant and murky? Well, if you don’t know who you are, you can hide in doubt. Why refuse to specify, when specifying the problem would enable its solution? Because to specify the problem is to admit that it exists. Because to specify the problem is to allow yourself to know what you want, say, from friend or lover… and then you will know, precisely and cleanly, when you don’t get it, and that will hurt, sharply and specifically. But you will learn something from that, and use what you learn in the future and the alternative to that single sharp pain is the dull ache of continued hopelessness and vague failure and the sense that time, precious time, is slipping by” (12 Rules, p. 276).
In Your Communication: Be Honest and Precise
- “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices” (Colossians 3:9).
- “Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them” (Colossians 3:19).
Usually when God addresses a problem, it is not a rare occurrence. Being embittered is a common problem in marriages. So be kind and honest in your communication with each other (1 Peter 3:7). Never underestimate the destructive power of sweeping things under the rug, or ignoring a problem that needs to be addressed. Such things typically do not simply resolve themselves with time. Far better to address the issue together, have a conversation with peace as its goal. A conversation wherein both of you desire to take your relationship from where it is right now and bring it as close to a “10” as possible. Because relationships do not do well when the same annoyance is there tormenting you every single day of your marriage.
You Need God
You are complicated and your mate is just as complicated and God is the only One who can help both of you sort out not only our own individual messes, but whatever messes you have made together in your short married life. He had already given us very practical answers concerning not only our own role in marriage (Ephesians 5:22ff), but equally how to treat the other person.
What We Need
What we need is not Mr or Miss Perfect, because outside of Jesus, no such person has ever existed on this planet (Romans 3:23; Ecclesiastes 7:29). “Living things die, after all without attention… No one finds a perfect match so perfect that the need for continual attention and work vanishes (and besides, if you find the perfect person, he or she would run away from ever-so-imperfect you )… In truth, what you need and what you deserve, after all is someone exactly as imperfect as you” (12 Rules, p. 273). All the passages that stress the importance of forgiving and forbearing with each other, admit that all our relationships will be with imperfect people (Ephesians 4:32).
Truth Results in Order and Simplicity
“Courageous and truthful words will render your reality simple, pristine, well-defined and habitable” (12 Rules, p. 281). The truth enables us to take chaos and quickly turn it into order, or at least something that we can address, ask God for help, and seek to fix. I see this in the account of the Prodigal Son. When he finally faced the truth, all of a sudden life and what he needed to do became really simple. He was no longer stuck or paralyzed. He moved. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight…” (Luke 15:17-18). So open your Bible, read it seriously, this is your one and only life, and we all will face either eternal bliss or misery at the end. So something is seriously wrong if we cannot get motivated. Do not wait until the dragon lifts your house off its foundation.
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017