Sleeping on a dragon’s hoard with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart, he had become a dragon himself.
C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
I find a tug-of-war is always taking place between my better nature, the person I aspire to be, and the lesser, the one who is the source of bad choices I make.
It is a common theme in literature. In American folklore there is an oft repeated story about two dogs or wolves, one good and one bad, that live inside of everyone and daily fight for supremacy. I’ve seen it attributed to a Native American elder, Sitting Bull, a Cherokee proverb and just generally characterized as a Native American saying. The conclusion of the story, whatever its source, is the dog that is fed the most wins.
I love the quote from Lewis. Those of you familiar with his writing will recognize in it the plight of poor Eustace Scrubb, a boy who fell asleep on a dragon’s hoard with dragonish thoughts in his heart and naturally became a dragon himself.
Lewis may have meant to accomplish no more than to make a good story. A proper enough goal at that. But to me it speaks of the need to remain intentional in life. To fall asleep is to yield to influence and desire (dragon’s gold) without the restraint of wakefulness.
When I “sleep” I lose the perspective of the purpose and the calling of God on my life. I drift through life easily influenced against my better judgement, easily persuaded to abandon my values. I surrender to a sleep that asks nothing of me, that fails to call me to change. I become increasingly like the dragon of my desires. To thoroughly mix my metaphors, I feed the bad dog.
The Red Vineyard, Vincent Van Gogh
I don’t remember when I first became aware of his work but over the last decade Vincent Van Gogh has become my favorite painter.
I especially love his work after he had become influenced by impressionism. I love the saturation of his colors and the sweep of his brush. I love the way he captures moments in time. I expect to see his subjects move, wheat fields sway in the breeze and crows to fly off his canvas.
I have to confess that part of my fondness for his work may be that I identify with Van Gogh. Certainly not in his genius but in his ordinariness-in his anguish and heartbreak. He was a man of a gentle and troubled soul for whom Hamlet’s slings and arrows would prove too much.
I want talk to Vincent, to tell him of the beauty in his painting. I want to encourage him in his early faith. To tell him that he is not alone and that there are many others who struggle and yet find strength in the one who created the earth he painted so beautifully.
I used the image of his work, The Red Vineyard, on our homepage and I’ve included it in this post. It was the only painting he sold during his short lifetime. I take to heart it’s warning to me and to anyone else who is tempted to judge life and worth by trends of thought or fashion. Approval is a dangerous desire. Use the gift you are.
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