Saturday, April 13, 2013

The beast becomes beautiful…

The story is often told of a beast and a beauty, and many have rightly noted the lesson to be learned from Belle's perspective, "that a thing must be loved before it can be beautiful;" however, there is another, often overlooked lesson: "that in order to truly love we must stop trying to become 'one who loves.'"

There once was a prince who thought himself charming and possessing great love and compassion. He thought himself friendly, loving and generous. Yet, through the curse (or blessing) of an enchantress he was forced to come to terms with what he had always been inside. What had been obvious to so many was now painfully obvious to himself as well.

After hating the revelation at first he eventually learned to appreciate it's truth and became motivated to change. The revelation was never meant as a mere inditement of his character, but as a catalyst for change. Revulsion at himself spurred him on to valiant efforts to become beautiful.

However, as days turned into months, and months into years, the zeal faded away and the change had still not been accomplished. There was little to show for the efforts made and zeal for change morphed into despair of ever changing at all. He was ugly and that was all there was to it.

He gradually become content in his beastly appearance, but convinced it was not a true reflection of his character. Efforts at changing his appearance had been made, but were finally abandoned and ignored. He would learn to live life with a beastly appearance.

It was not until a hapless traveler stumbled in his doors that he began to see that he was beast inside as well as outside. People are harder to love than enchanted objects. It turns out they want more than "genuine" silence, or rude demands. They want words as well as actions. They don't want self-interest, they want interest in themselves.

While the beast remained focused on the change in himself he wished to affect he found his efforts fruitless. He could never love Belle until he focused on her instead of himself finding love. As days passed he gave up more and more of his own desires until he finally had given everything to others. His last breath found him declaring the irrelevance of his own desires to become a beautiful person again.
Yet it was that final renouncing of his own desires that made him beautiful inside, and so the transformation from beast to prince which seemed almost instantaneous was actually a long time in the making. The real change had happened gradually so that it was almost imperceptible even to himself until in a moment it became obvious to all that he was no longer a beast, but a prince.

It was not until the beast came to terms with who he really was and his inability to change that real change became a possibility. He only learned to love only by forgetting himself and his own desire to become handsome again.

I am a beast. Not in the good sense, just the awkward sense. When beast tries to "invite" Belle to dinner on her first night at the castle, that sense.
I've always been shy. Yet, I love people. However, I believed gestures, actions, and meaningful silence to be the most sincere.
I'm afraid of talking because it will sound fake and insincere; so my words are brief and to the point. I assume what people are thinking and what they will understand by my silence. I assume they will understand it means things like respect and sincerity.
Instead I've found that people actually assume that it means disinterest and a lack of care (imagine that). Tender silence is easily taken as rude disinterest or a lack of initiation—which proves a lack of real affection (who knew?).

As one who has long aspired to the difficult call of full-time ministry this has been something more or less on my mind throughout the years. To minister to people they have to trust you and you have to connect with all sorts of people. I've struggled off and on to figure out how to cope with such a weakness and have mostly contented myself with developing the other gifts necessary for such a calling; until recently being told that until such a gift developed I should abandon plans for the ministry.

After trying so hard lately to become someone I have never really been I had become really discouraged. I began to despair of ever becoming a prince on the inside, much less the outside.
However, I have found lately that in my weakness my God is made strong. Yahweh who gave Moses the confidence and eloquence to talk to Pharaoh and preach to all Israel is making me into something I never thought I would be.

I feel as though I'm watching my life from a distance viewpoint right now. I'm seeing myself doing things that amaze me afterwards because I would never have done them before. People want you to talk to them to let them know they are appreciated and loved (strange I know), and I, who have always found small talk annoying and awkward find myself making it with complete strangers(!). I, who can never think of anything to say of relevance to current conversations between casual friends suddenly find connections coming out my ears.
Surely God can do whatever He wants. I'm looking with great to see what God will do with His servant Isaiah Paul English. Meanwhile, I myself am focused on simply loving people and showing them they are loved by God.