The Disney Brunette
I was standing in line with my two brother-in-laws, waiting to get on Cinderella's Golden Carrousel. This was way back. I was twenty, Disney World just opened, and tickets were required for each ride. Standing alone, two places in front of us, was an astonishingly beautiful woman. Her long, straight, jet-black hair hung perfectly down her neck. Her blue eyes seemed battery powered. Every feature about her was perfect. She was a goddess to behold.
Out of the blue, I blurted out, “I’ll bet you I can get her to go on the ride with me.” It was a moment of madness I cannot explain. I took a big breath, smiled at my brother-in-laws, and stepped forward to proposition a goddess. A few moments later, I returned, asking to borrow some tickets. Seeing, that I was floating on a cloud, they said, “Take them all!” So began my dream adventure with the beautiful goddess of Disney World.
After the carrousel, we headed off to Pirates Of The Caribbean. On the way as we began to talk, the Dream began to unwrap and a Nightmare began to unfold. I was literally stricken by her emptiness. She was so full of herself, that my presence was virtually unacknowledged. Her extraordinary beauty became eclipsed by a repulsive darkness. I desperately wanted to get away from her. The intensity of my sudden revulsion was bewildering. I did not know how to tell her politely that this was a big mistake -that I did not want to be with her anymore.
We arrived at the attraction and climbed into something like a little row boat, which took us past the various pirate scenes. She was oblivious to my panic, but all the while, my mind was racing over how to gracefully exit. The boat had stopped for the next scene. It was pitch dark and loud with noise. That is when I noticed the little red Exit sign. It was my opportunity to bolt. When the boat moved back into the light, I was gone. I’m sure she was surprised, but I doubt she ever missed me.
This memory came to mind this morning, as I was reflecting on the enigmatic words of Jesus, where the First shall be Last and the Last shall be First, where the Least shall be the Greatest in the Kingdom Of God. I could see how these words have application here on earth, but I was struggling to grasp how they also pointed to different levels in heaven. This was a conundrum, since in heaven, all are in unity, and all are complete. But, just because all will be perfectly happy, does not mean all will have the same capacity for happiness -for those who loved more, there will be more happiness.
It was intentional, that Jesus connects “least” and “last” with our heavenly reward. Least and last define humility, which is the antithesis of pride, the primary sin. Humility must then be the foundational virtue, as it displaces both pride and selfishness. Making others more important than ourselves is to make ourselves the least, or the last. It is the beginning of moving up in the Kingdom of God.
Eternal happiness then has a correspondence to humility -to the degree we have learned to empty ourselves of selfishness. The greater our emptiness, the greater is our capacity to be filled with the Love of God. God’s love for us is infinite, eternal and unconditional. We can do nothing to increase or diminish it. However, we can increase our capacity to experience it, by cultivating humility -which is a hard and narrow road, as anyone familiar with farming knows. For, cultivation is a demanding commitment, involving hard work, unending perseverance, sacrifice, tenderness -and stubborn Faith that the rain will come.
I cannot wish my selfishness away. It is structural -a part of my flesh. Just as air expands to fill the volume allotted it, so too my selfishness expands to fill the space allotted it, relentlessly seeking new pathways to occupy my heart. I cannot command it gone, but I can choose humble acts of love to displace it, to drive it back, to subjugate it, to redefine it to increasingly confined boundaries, while simultaneously expanding the frontier to love.
Our heart and spirit is a mysterious realm, not prone to casually revealing their secrets. Their laws of operation are not self evident. They must be sought, discovered. Scripture calls this Wisdom, and says it begins with our friend, Humility. To govern this land of heart and spirit is in the jurisdiction of our mind, our self-control, our free will. If we forfeit our authority to rule, other forces will take over, either of our flesh -our base nature- or forces of evil.
Beyond our Self, there are many forces that influence this unseen land. It is a mysterious interaction involving the grace of God; His faithful angels, including our guardian angel; His unfaithful angels; the intercession of the saints -in the here and now, and in the beyond; and what Scripture calls the “world”, which is a product of humanity outside of God’s will. These forces are either good (according to God’s will) or evil (against God’s will). The good, beckons us away from selfishness and toward freedom. Evil beckons us towards selfishness and into bondage.
And so it was, that in reflecting on evil’s design to ensnare us into a life centered on Self, that the memory of the Disney Brunette was triggered. Until today, I was at loss to explain the intense revulsion I had experienced in her presence. Now, I believe it was evil that I had sensed. She was empty -a Self so expanded, as to leave no space for God or Love, condemned to Loneliness, a glimpse of Hell, the destiny of all who follow the god of Self.
Beauty will always be in the eye to the beholder. But to a Christian man or women, the most resplendent of sights, will always be a humble heart, empty of self and full of love.
Lord, empty me as I seek you now. Fill me, with Your Light and Love, that I may reflect the Beauty of Your Face. Help me to love others, as I have been Loved by you.