Friday, May 27, 2016

How to Train Your Dragons

A couple of days ago, I made a distinction between demons and dragons. Demons try to make you nothing; dragons guard you because they know you're something. As I said then, dragons are never set in front of chambermaids; they are charged with defending princesses. Still, there's a lot of talk out there about slaying your dragons. 

I disagree.

As a human being in a broken world, there's much more to be gained from training your dragons than slaying them. If these are the things that are set to guard you in this world, it's a bit of foolishness to declare yourself defenseless and slay them. Don't you think? It's true that often, our dragons get in the way. The shame, pain, insecurity, brokenness, and other things we feel can tend to hold us back. But that's because we've got our dragons in our service instead of being in their keep.

Here's what I mean: if you've got your dragons breathing fire in the windows of the tallest tower, then you're the only one that's going to feel their heat. And these dragons are hungry; they will eat you alive. If you've been around very long at all, you know this well. You know what it's like to be gnawed at, to be burned, to be smoked out by your dragons. You know what it's like when the little tiny world you live in becomes the dragon's lair. 

But in what fairy tale have you ever seen the dragon so turned against the princess? Since when does Prince Charming ever rush in just seconds before the princess is devoured and literally pluck her out of the dragon's teeth? 

That's not how the story goes.

That's why we have to train our dragons.

It's why we have to turn them outward, to use them as our protection instead of as our attendant. We have to keep them focused on the gate, not on the tower. We have to teach them that one of us is the princess and one of us is the dragon, and it's the dragon's responsibility to protect the princess. Not to devour her. 

It seems kinda not exactly the Christian thing to say, that we ought to turn our dragons outward. That we ought to have them face the world. But the older I get, the more I mature into my own story, the more pages I turn, the more I understand that the very things that I once thought would eat me alive are exactly the things that shape the way that I interact with the world, when they aren't turned against me. When I let my shame face the world, it becomes bolder, less afraid. Because it has a princess to protect. When I let my insecurity face the world, it has to stand a little taller. Because it has a princess to protect. When I let my pain face the world, it can't think about itself. Because it has a princess to consider. When I let my brokenness face the world, it feels stronger. Because it has a princess to protect.

Your dragons, they don't really want to eat you. They just need a job. They need something to do. They need a purpose in the world. Without a purpose, they're like any other child - incessantly needy and bothersome. Always asking why. Always asking what. Always wanting to play or wanting you to look up and see them or wanting you to make them a sandwich. Or wanting you to be a sandwich. You give your dragons a job, give them meaning, and they become something entirely different. They are still your dragons.

But now, you're their princess. 

There's still a pesky little question, of course, and that's this: is this really the life we're meant to live? Are we supposed to be tucked away in the tallest tower protected by our dragons? Wouldn't we be better off to slay them and run free?

No. No. And yes. In that order.

The princess never slays the dragon. That's not how the story goes. She doesn't slay the dragon, climb down from the tower, and go running off into the forest in pursuit of a life that may or may not be out there for her. No. The princess is the one pursued. Prince Charming slays the dragons and drags her away into a life she could never dream of. 

Enter Prince Charming...Prince of Peace.

This is God's role in our story. He's the one who slays our dragons, not us. And it has to be that way. Think about it. Think about how many times you've tried to slay your dragons, how many days you've woken up and decided you weren't going to live this way any more. That you weren't going to be guarded by your shame, your insecurity, your pain, your brokenness, your whatever. How's that workin' for you? How's that ever worked for you? It doesn't. At least, it doesn't for me. I have never successfully slayed a single dragon in my life that hasn't come back with two heads. 

But on occasion, my Prince has come and slayed one or two. Every now and then, He arrives at my castle, and I watch Him battle my dragons for me. I watch Him slay my shame, my fear, my insecurity, my brokenness. I watch Him engage in all-out war for the chance to climb those stairs to the tallest tower and take me away. I've been waiting for Him. And it happens. And you know what? When God slays my dragons, they don't come back. I may occasionally find out they were pregnant, and now I've got a bunch of little dragons running out of a nest, but the slayed dragon never comes back.

And then sometimes, He doesn't slay them at all. He woos them. Like Donkey in the Shrek adventures, my God steps in and woos my dragons until all their fierce bravado, all their fire and smoke, becomes a love story. It's what He does. It's what He should do. It's the role of the Prince. 

Not the princess.

From the tallest tower, all I can do is make sure my dragons are breathing in the right direction. And that's not down my neck. 

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