Imagine that you live in a land of dragons of blood reds, gangrenous greens and drowning blues. (See parts one, two and three of Here There Be Dragons by clicking the numbers or see the side bar) Imagine the one that haunts your house, a Roof Dragon, is particularly vile and nasty, so vile that, despite the fact that you and your family are most in need of the “Anti-Dragon Defense Team” (Serving the dragon-infested for 89 years!) you are least likely to receive a visit from them. Roof Dragons are the deadliest kind of dragon of all and, in the end, nobody relishes the idea of putting themselves in harm’s way. It’s uncomfortable, scary, and so darn hot!
Imagine when one or two saintly individuals do make the attempt ease your burdens, the dragon becomes so angry and full of hot air, you are forced to firmly but politely reject their offers to be of service because you are so very afraid of what could happen. Meanwhile, you never get a vacation, a reprieve, a respite or even a rest from the dragon; it’s always there, hovering over your shoulder, no matter what. You must constantly work at placating it or you will be punished through deepened poverty, isolation, sickness and overall weakness. But what does the dragon require in return for its dubious silence? All in your possession that stands between you and deepened poverty, isolation, sickness and overall weakness. There are moments when the irony of this truth fills you with ice-cold fury. There are other moments when it fills you with deep hopelessness and sadness. There are many, far too many, moments when the puzzle is so clearly without an answer, the riddle so without a resolution, you feel on the brink of madness.
Imagine doing everything you can to provide your family and yourself with what passes as a somewhat normal life. Imagine you are somewhat successful at it, so that even you begin to think it’s real—that your life won’t always have to be full of yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, hourly sacrifices to the dragon—and, as a result, you blithely forgo a sacrifice or two. Sometimes the dragon seems not to notice, so often, in fact, it anchors your belief that you are finally making the beginnings of escape. Then, one day, without any warning at all (it always happens thus) the dragon becomes enraged over something so small it is ridiculous. It roars its anger and hatred until you, cowering in a corner, shivering with the pain of your newest burns, far more painful than you remembered, realize how blind, stupid and utterly foolish you have been. Devastated, the sense of loss, disillusionment, despair and hopelessness threatens to swallow you into a far deeper pit of pain than the burns in your flesh ever could.
There are some who truly want to help and truly try. They will never know how much their efforts count, even when they fail.
There are those who truly want to help and truly can’t. They are treasured as much as those who do.
There are those who want to help but are afraid. They will never know the blessings they might have earned through their trying.
There are those who rush to your aid and believe they are helping when they minimize your challenges, preach to you lessons you learned long ago, or offer solutions that are either based on total ignorance or are so obvious you have already tried them and let their blackened remains flutter from your near-lifeless fingers in the wake of the dragon’s charry disapproval. You want to give them credit for trying but it is sometimes rather difficult.
There are those who feel they should help but simply don’t want to.
There are those who vaguely feel they should probably be doing something to help but find it too unpleasant to think about long enough to ever come to any kind of accurate conclusion. Some even bury these feelings when the burns in your clothes and the soot on your face fill them with reproach. Burned clothing and scorched hair are some of the things that make them most uncomfortable in life so they look away, feeling fully justified in their lack of consideration and kindness, while you and your family, with hands that hang down, go, sorrowing, away.
And then there is God. You know He is there and that the solace He offers is all that stands between you and utter destruction--and this gives you endurance. You know that one day your dragon will be eviscerated by a power you do not possess--and this gives you hope. Mostly, you know that all the suffering you endure in the meantime serves an important purpose--and this makes you glad. Yet, you can’t help but wonder how much of what you endure is ultimately needful for your salvation and how much of it is an opportunity for others to be blessed through their willingness to cart some of it away.
It’s an answer that is imminently unknowable when standing in the glare of the dragon’s roar.
(Comments off) (Okay, so they're still on, even though I turned them off, so . . .just pretend they're off.)
(Things have been so hot and smoky around here, I haven’t often been able to get to my computer through the haze. Yes, I am okay (mostly) but, just when I felt like I was beginning to catch up with my friends, I had to make another hasty retreat. After much girding of loins and the smelting of ore for armor and dragon-slaying equipage, we are in a bit of a wait-and-see pattern whilst we lick our wounds and make plans for navigating the holidays. It all seems to be taking so long . . .just know that I love you and am grateful for you. I think of you often and admire you for your willingness to cart away my cares, bits by bits of my burden, all of them pieces of my pain.)
(If you think you know the name of my dragon—psssst! It’s a what, not a who—email me via the address in the sidebar or that other one you already have.)