Did you ever wake up to some bad news about yourself? You know, you’re tootling along thinking you’re pretty okay, and then you wake up one morning to a few inconvenient truths. During Lent, I received a distressing insight concerning myself and my motivations. Simply put, I discovered that all of my life I have been a student of the Scarlett O’Hara School of Devotion.
For those of you who have not read Gone With the Wind in donkey’s years, permit me to refresh your memory….
Scarlett O’Hara loved Ashley Wilkes from the afternoon he first appeared on her porch. It was puppy love, and she was smitten. Never mind that she and Ashley were ill-suited for one another, a fact which character after character in the book pointed out to Scarlett. She was obsessed, and was sure that only Ashley would make her happy. Alas, Ashley marries his childhood sweetheart, Melanie, a woman with attitudes and interests similar to his – a good match. Scarlett marries Melanie’s brother in a fit of pique; after he dies, she marries a man much older than herself because she needs his money. And when he dies, Scarlett marries husband #3 – Rhett Butler.
Rhett is to Scarlett what Melanie is to Ashley – a good match. Rhett understands Scarlett and can give her everything she needs. Unfortunately, Scarlett does not understand herself. Scarlett believes that what she really needs is Ashley. It is only when she finally obtains him, upon Melanie’s death, that Scarlett realizes what everyone else has known all along – Ashley could never make her happy. Unfortunately, by this point husband #3 has had it with Scarlett and her cheating heart, and famously announces that he no longer gives a good galldurn what she does –he’s leaving.
And this woman is the genius after whose life I have patterned my own….
I was raised as a Christian; I took my beliefs and my relationship with God very seriously. But all my life I have been a second Scarlett – “married” to the right man, yet giving my heart to another. My “Ashley” has always been the concerns of this world: my longing for human affection, financial success and physical comfort. God, who has been wooing me since He created me, has had to take a back seat to my real interests. And He knows it….
It would really help if my Ashley would obligingly kick the bucket….
Strange to say, but a saint, namely St. Paul, actually suggested that we do old Ashley in! Apparently Paul of Tarsus had his own problems with Ashley, and the no-nonsense saint started kicking the useless twit around a little. He confessed to the Corinthians that he tried buffeting Ashley mercilessly, but it apparently wasn’t enough. Ashley, though useless, is a tough old bird. To the Romans the saint complained that Ashley just wasn’t dying fast enough. It was then that he wrote his famous “no more St. Nice Guy!” declaration to the Colossians – in which he proposes murdering Ashley in cold blood!
…those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature. (Col 3:5)
“Whatever belongs to your earthly nature” – that’s Ashley, all right. Christians are urged to try starving Ashley into submission, wresting his possessions from his grasp and handing them over to the poor, clothing him in sackcloth and ashes, and if that isn’t enough (and it is never enough) – laying Ashley’s head gently down on a concrete block and taking a few well-aimed swings at it with a blunt instrument. And you thought Christianity was all soppy love and forgiveness! Think again! The Founder Himself straightforwardly advocated the torture of the likes of Ashley Wilkes:
If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.
Unfortunately, though, it isn’t as if the skunk is utterly devoid of redeeming qualities. No, Ashley is respectable. No one is going to think less of me if I work on Sundays to get ahead financially. Ashley needs a new suit! Contracept so that I can maintain my privileged rugrat-free lifestyle? Ashley is allergic to children, and besides, birth control is the responsible choice! Devote my evenings to fasting and prayer for an end to abortion? What? And miss Duck Dynasty??? It’s Ashley’s favorite show!!
All the more reason to sharpen the knife….
But Ashley is a wily one. Even as I measure his size 14 feet for the concrete booties which I hope will sink him to the bottom of the sea, he bats his long, golden eyelashes at me, and I swoon. Sheesh! my heart whispers. Give the weasel a break! What did he ever do??
Oh, not much. He’s just the one thing standing between me and True Love, eternal happiness, all that stuff. Ashley isn’t just being clingy and controlling. He is literally hell-bent on sweet-talking me into spending eternity together with him. Hell-bent. As long as Ashley holds me in his thrall, my eternal happiness is in very real jeopardy. For a sick, enabling co-dependent like me, that’s seriously bad news. The Lover of my soul knows this. The One Who has relentlessly pursued me from all eternity won’t let me go without a fight – but I have to fight with Him. As St. Paul, who knew a thing or two about old Ashley, put it:
…if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
Dire straits call for dire measures.
The self-denial St. Paul was constantly preaching is the key here because, of course, my cravings for human affection, financial success and physical comfort are self-love. Ashley isn’t just my paramour – he is literally a part of me. That’s why it hurts so much to let him go. That’s why it’s so hard to watch him die. I must stop my ears to his pleas, thrust him out of my heart, bar the door, change the locks, and call the Police if he ever so much as dares to set foot on the property again.
Or, I could take the easy road and just poison his grits….
Christians are enjoined to get just a little bit mean… make that seriously antagonistic… okay, actually out-and-out bloodthirsty towards the object of our mislaid affections. Because Ashley, the jerk, is ruining my chance at REAL love, God has told me I must take matters into my own hands.
So be it!
Die, Ashley, die!
On the memorial of St. Mark the Evangelist
Deo omnis gloria!