Jan 10, 2013

That Makes You . . . Nobody

There was an exchange in The Hobbit that resonated with me.  (I guess I need to throw up the obligatory "spoiler alert" here, even though this is not really a spoilerish scene.)  Towards the end of the movie, the band of dwarves have found themselves captured by a large goblin horde.  The enormous and disgusting goblin king assesses the group in front of him.  He sees their leader and his face registers recognition.  (This is a paraphrase.  I tried to record the lines with my phone but goofed it up.)
"Well well well.  What have we here.  Thorin Oakenshield, son of Thrain, son of Thror, King Under the Mountain.  But, there is no mountain.  And you don't have a crown.  And you certainly are not a king.  So, I guess that makes you . . . nobody . . . really."
Thorin, who has been through more than anyone should have to in his life, is a really fascinating character to me.  He understands his heritage and his royal claim.  But he also recognizes that he has lost everything that would enable him to return to his throne.  The weight of all of that - the needs of his people, his pain from past losses - makes him a little bit of a grumpy dwarf.  He actually would probably be diagnosed with clinical depression.  When he is talking to the goblin king, you see that mix of pride and shame in play.  As the king identifies him by his title and lineage, he stands up a little taller and looks more regal.  But as the king tears him down, he shrinks at the knowledge that the cruel assessment is correct.  In the current situation in Middle Earth, he is really nobody.  He's just a lost dwarf trying to accomplish an impossible task by reclaiming something apparently beyond reclamation.

The reason that this exchange stood out to me is that there have been many times in my life where I have felt just like Thorin.  I have been battling and striving with things in my life.  Then an Accuser will come to me and confront me.
"Well well well.  What have we here.  David Staples, heir to eternity, child of God, King of Heaven.  But you are not in Heaven.  And you aren't dressed in white.  And you certainly are not royalty.  So, I guess that makes you . . .  nobody.  A fraud.  A failure."
There have been so many times where those accusations have echoed in my mind.  They are followed with other hateful and crippling thoughts.
"If anyone knew what you were really like, they would drop you like a bad habit.  You are a complete joke.  You can never make a difference.  No one cares what you think. What makes you think that you are so important?" 
For much of my life, I have lived in duplicate.  There was the image that I projected and the person that I was.  I knew what people thought of me and I knew what they wanted me to be.  It was extremely important that people saw me a certain way.  So I spent a great deal of time refining and crafting that person.  It was the intelligent gifted communicator.  It was the humorous and wise friend.  It was the godly minister.  It was the overcomer of struggles.  Inside, though, it was a different story.  I was angry and weak and harboring sin of all sorts.  As time moved on, I spent more and more time making sure that what people saw was in good shape.  That effort cost me dearly as the real me degraded.

As that process continued, it became easier and easier for those accusations to cripple me.  On one level, they were true.  I was a fraud.  But those accusing words began to define me.  I saw myself that way.  I was useless and worthless.  Every once in a while I would have an opportunity to do something useful - like teach a chapel or speak at a conference.  It helped me remember what I used to be - kind of like the way the goblin king first identified Thorin.  But even in those moment, I would find myself quickly crippled by the hateful whispers.  "I guess that makes you nobody."

For any of you who have read this blog with any regularity, you now that my disappearances are pretty common.  I'll write consistently and then just quit for weeks.  (If you think you have it bad, my fantasy football league is even worse.  I've never completed a season of recaps.)  So it probably was no surprise that I vanished in September last year.  This time, though, there was a purpose and not just laziness at play.  For the past three months I have been in the process of tearing apart that second public persona.  I have been dealing with some long ingrained failures and weaknesses.  And I needed to do that alone without worrying about what anyone else thought.  This time, it was because it was what I needed to do - not because anyone else wanted me to do it.

I told Heather the other day that I feel better than I have in years.  Between having medicine that helps me with my rheumatoid arthritis, being on anti-depressants, and actually changing things instead of hiding them, I feel happier and lighter than I can remember.  It is amazing how much freer you can feel when you aren't toting around guilt and shame all the time.  A person can actually accomplish a lot of personal improvements when they aren't spending so much time trying to look better to people.  Today actually marks 100 days for me since my life changed forever.  It is an incredible feeling.

So what does that have to do with The Hobbit and Thorin Oakenshield?  Well, I have disarmed the Accuser - my version of the goblin king.  He can't hurt me any more.  When he comes at me with his hateful words, they hold no power.  My failures do not define me.  I am a redeemed child of God.  He loves me and rescued me.  And He is doing a good work in me.  It is a work in progress.  There are many things I still am dealing with and letting God fix in me.  But the biggest thing right now is that when I hear "I guess that makes you . . . nobody" it doesn't make me wilt.  It holds no power.  It is a lie and I know it.  That's an exciting place to be in for the new year.