Monday, December 27, 2010

The Final Transformation

I've had a small mole beside my nose since I was born. At least it used to be small. It also used to be light in color and mostly unnoticeable. People even used to call it a beauty mark. A mole can make a face interesting if it's small and in the right place. Did someone say "Honey West?"

But during the past ten years that mole of mine got bigger and darkened in color. Instead of a beauty mark, it began to stick out like a witch's nose wart. I finally decided enough was enough and went to have it removed. No big deal right? I mean, it wasn't hurting or bleeding or anything. It was ugly, not cancerous. Any doctor/dermatologist could do the job in five minutes. I used to be in the VA health system until a few weeks ago when they told me I made too much money and promptly booted me out. Serves me right. I was a bad soldier. My soldiering was almost as bad as my singing. I haven't gotten any other health insurance yet. No health insurer would have paid for this anyway unless I lied and said the mole was hurting or something. But I figured, how much could it cost? It's not much worse than popping a zit. Sure enough, the doctor put a shot in to numb it (moles don't have much feeling anyway), cut it off, cauterized it, and bandaged it up. It took maybe five minutes. The bill—$200!!!!!!!!!!!

To say I was put out would be a great understatement. I asked why such a hefty fee. Would you believe his reply was, "It's cosmetic surgery." I said, "So is a haircut, except it takes considerably more time and talent to perform."

Doctors are as greedy as anybody else. Have you noticed that the more money people have, the more they want (and think they deserve)? Now I've always been a republican at heart, but this is exactly why we need a two party system. Many republicans are greedy, but many democrats are power hungry. Their faults are what actually allows them to keep each other in check.

We need a new kind of court system. One that allows you to take someone to task for their greed. I didn't pay just to have a mole removed. I made a greedy man's boat payment this month. This is exactly the point CS Lewis was making in his Reflections on the Psalms. Many of the Psalms are about the topic of justice. "Lord, these people have mistreated me. When will you bring them down low and exalt your faithful servant"? The Jews wholly believed that in this world, or some world to come, there would be a just account given for every action in this life. They were anxious to get what they felt was rightfully theirs, but they were also anxious to see sinners punished. But you'll notice that there were precious few prayers for their enemies.

That to me is the most striking aspect to reading the Old Testament. Forgiveness seems all but lost on the Jews. They're always anxious for God to forgive them, but where do they ask God to forgive their enemies? Where do they themselves forgive their enemies, especially those who are not Jews? You seldom run across such a passage. They had trouble just forgiving members of their own families.

When Jesus came into the world he brought about a true paradigm shift on the subject of justice. He implored us to temper justice with mercy. But forgiveness was better than either. I heard a friend talking on the phone to someone a while back saying that Christianity was all about forgiveness. Without forgiveness, justice and mercy go out the window. If we don't forgive, we won't be forgiven. And if we don't love others, God won't love us.

In Lewis' Till We Have Faces the character of Orual in many ways exemplified the Old Testament (the old paradigm) view of justice, while Fox, whom she called grandfather, saw the new paradigm coming into view.

Orual: "Are the gods not just?"
Fox: "Oh no, child. What would become of us if they were?

Jonah slept through a storm because he had no conscience. Jesus slept through one because he did, and it was clear. Most people don't sleep nearly so well as either.

Till We Have Faces was about a young women's journey from childhood to adulthood, about her awakening from childhood selfishness to adult selflessness, and about learning to let go of anger while learning to love her enemies. She also learned to see herself for what she truly was and what she truly was becoming. She learned that her own heart was the most deceitful one of all and that with a deceitful heart comes a false face. And by the end she learned that in order to find her true face—the person she was meant to be—she had to seek the face of another, the face of a God.

Her story reads very much like the story of the Old Testament's transformation into the New. We find a different kind of man in the old one full of selfishness, envy, greed and violence and yet remarkably intent on getting an undeserved justice from God. But in the new we find a man humble, claiming to own nothing, giving all his excess to the poor, loving his enemies and wishing them the best, and perhaps most importantly we find him at peace while the world around him is in turmoil because his conscience is clear and beaming. And in the end we find the new man transformed yet again into a new body and a new world. It's not a new paradigm but a perfection of what began with Christ.

It's the final testament, but not the final story, for the best story has been saved for last, and only God knows its content. I often imagine it will be like that show "Stargate SG1" where we find these adventurous people stepping through a stargate for the first time, not knowing what they'll find on the other side. It must be very much like being born again. Personally, I can't wait. I like to say that the older I get, the better eternal rest sounds. But I'm only joking because I'm expecting eternal life—not rest. And it will happen. But this stargate will have a sign above it: NO MASKS ALLOWED.


shadowlands said...

Knowing God accepts our real face makes it easier to remove some of the masks..... The daftest thing I've ever attempted was masking myself before God!! Mind you, my ancestors tried it, in a garden way back. They did it with leaves, I seem to recall....

Happy Christmas Bill, hope that Doctor's fee didn't put your nose out of joint!!

C W Seper said...

All so true Ros. I'm reading a book now by Orson Scott Card called "Speaker For the Dead" that takes place in the distant future after mankind has spread to other planets throughout the stars. The Speaker goes wherever he's needed to gather information, TRUE information about a dead person's life, and then tells it at the town square or something. He tells the good, the bad, and the ugly. He tells the things that the dead person would never had said themselves, all the embarrassing details of what made him/her the type of person they were. He tells the things people did to him/her too that created the behavior patterns they saw as well. It makes people uncomfortable, but it also does them good to get it all out in public so a healing can take place.

I suspect it's not so different from what judgement day will be like. I only hope I have the good sense to drop my mask of pretenses on my own before God has to rip it from me.

Happy Holidays to you as well.

Anonymous said...

Well, both sides show greed and power-mongering...But one party does seem to have more compassion for the poor. But, oh well.

The anarchy of Thomas Merton rather appeals to the heart though. If I didn't appreciate our local protectors and LOVE the parks and library system, good roads to drive on and poor kids getting the chance for two meals a day (at public school) and an equal education, I'd probably be an anarchist.

C W Seper said...

"If I didn't appreciate our local protectors and LOVE the parks and library system, good roads to drive on and poor kids getting the chance for two meals a day (at public school) and an equal education, I'd probably be an anarchist."

There ya go. :-)

I've always had a fondness for Russell Kirk and William F Buckly Jr's brand of conservatism, but as near as I can tell, that's pretty much dead and gone now. If being a conservative nowadays has anthing in common with Glenn Beck and the Tea Party, I'd sooner be an anarchist too.

At any rate, the dems will steal your money on the local level and the pubs will get ya on the national level. I don't think there's just a whole lot of people from either party that have out best interest in mind anymore. This country is ruled by a pair of rival gangs, each trying to establish their own turf.