Saturday, April 7, 2012

Rapunzel and the Ghost

   I know…I know…the title’s a little kooky.  But hey, I looked in the Big Book of Blog Titles and it wasn’t taken.
   We were watching “Tangled” on the big screen.  It was in 3-D.  The glasses made the scene with the lanterns spectacular.  And there was a point in which Flynn is trying to climb the tower, misses his mark and falls.  The artistry captured all the physical reflexes as if he were a real person.  I won’t give too much away for those of you who haven’t seen the movie.
   It was the mother that struck me as truly evil.  Sure, causing Aurora to fall into a deep sleep was pretty sinister in “Sleeping Beauty”.  And them poison apples…got to stay away from those!  But it was what Mother Gothel did to Rapunzel that caught my attention.
   She kept Rapunzel in chains.
Front Cover
   We all know the story.  Rapunzel imprisoned in a high and lofty tower with hair that could reach to the moon.  Well, at least to the ground.  Kept captive by an evil witch.  A handsome prince rides up and “Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your golden hair!”   *sniff*
   Disney outdid itself with the villain in "Tangled".  Mother Gothel keeps Rapunzel under lock and key for 18 years.  Her only friend being a chameleon, Rapunzel spends her years painting every inch of her room, reading the same books over and over, and continues to dream of lights floating in the sky.  And of course…brushing her hair.  Brush.  Brush.  Brush again.  And her hair was magic.  It had a healing and life-giving property that Mother Gothel coveted. 

   But the weightier chain that Mother Gothel put around Rapunzel’s neck is that of Rapunzel being a slave to her mother’s self-pity.  Each time Rapunzel expresses the hope of going outside the tower, Mother Gothel goes into self-ingratiating monologue of how she slaved for Rapunzel to keep her happy, and the unappreciated attitude her daughter showed in return. How manipulative! Rapunzel responds in tears by pledging to stay confined to her room.  Mother Gothel had bound herself to a chain of greed and desire, and she chose to chain Rapunzel to herself as well.
   People do that to one another.  There are some who, although they are the ones who badger and hurt and wrap burdens around others peoples' necks, will turn and act the martyr.  The child who will run to her room and refuse to eat, until her mother finally caves in and apologizes for punishing her for throwing toys.  Or the friend who turned to sulking and complaining to gain attention, although he was the one who put himself – and his family – into financial ruin because of a spending problem.  They hold burdens over others’ heads even though they’re the ones who cause the pain, the hurt, and the guilt.  And there are plenty of kind, merciful people who accept their lies and become their slaves.  Money is lent (surrendered), rides are given, time and energy spent, and lives shackled.
   I just finished my favorite book, The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis.  You know those books that you pick up every few years and read it from cover to cover?  That's mine. In his book, Lewis writes about a bus ride.  People living in the Valley of the Shadow of Death get to take an excursion to the Foothills of Heaven and see if they want to stay.  When they arrive, the passengers notice two things: 1) The grass hurts like needles.  In fact, everything is more “real” than what they faced in the town they lived in below, and 2) they resemble ghosts.  As they get out of the bus, solid people – naked and clothed – are approaching them.  Each solid person is assigned a ghost to talk to and invite to go to the mountains with them.
   C.S. Lewis meets one of his heroes, George MacDonald.  They witness some of the conversations, one of which takes place between a fair lady and a short, ghostly man.  The man holds a chain, and at the end of the chain is linked a well-dressed individual in a vaudevillian outfit.  Each time the small man speaks, his words come out of the mouth of the other.  The woman speaks directly to the small man.  Each word spoken by her is met with a theatrical rebuff from the actor. 

“On terms you might offer to a dog," he says.  "I happen to have some self-respect left, and I see that my going will make no difference to you.  It is nothing to you that I go back to the cold and the gloom, the lonely, lonely streets…”

While such words would enslave others to the actor, the woman had spent time in heaven surrounded by joy. 

“What needs could I have,” she said, “now that I have all?  I am full now, not empty.  I am in Love Himself, not lonely.  Strong, not weak.  You shall be the same.   Come and see. We shall have no need for one another now: we can begin to love truly.” 

   As the small man dwells in self-pity, an incredible thing takes place.  He becomes smaller and smaller still.  It comes to the point that the woman has to kneel and speak to the chain as he becomes the size of a gnat.  In the end, he disappears.  The actor had become everything while he became nothing.  It had consumed him.
   Who wouldn't want to be able to speak that woman's words?!  "I am full now, not empty.  I am in Love Himself, not lonely."  She experienced freedom through the Love she encountered.  The sad issue is that the man kept clinging to his self-pity.  But it can become the same with us.  Jealousy, anger, self-pity, greed, resentment, fear.  They can grow and grow until very little of us is left.  Perhaps some small smidgen of love might remain.  

   That’s the nature of sin.  We yank on the chain to be fed more.  And although we may not go to the extreme of allowing that sin to overcome us like some people, we're still a slave to it.  The fair lady found freedom.  That freedom wasn't a feeling, but was found in a person.  And the person was Jesus.  One needs only to open the bible to see why.

   Jesus went to a synagogue one Sabbath and was called to read.  He goes to the front and opens to a passage in the book of Isaiah.  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” he reads, “for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”  Jesus sits down and everyone looks at him for a while.  Then he says, “This passage is fulfilled in your hearing today.”  The strange thing is that the passage was over 500 years old.  But what happens then?  Jesus goes out, and…
…feeds the poor and brings them good news

…gives sight to the blind

…forgives prostitutes freedom to the oppressed

…raises the dead

…teaches the lost

...speaks out against religious hypocrisy

...preaches about the kingdom of God

…and dies on the cross for our sins.
   "He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released."  Those words stick out to me.  Each of us are enslaved by our own passions and desires, temptations and pride.  Society feeds on our fears, our anger, our selfishness.  I think the reason those words stay with me is that they give me hope.  Not hope based on anything I could do, or say, or can change.  But hope in someone who's gone to the grave to bring me freedom.  In believing in Jesus, my chains have been removed.  I have the freedom to love, to dance, to receive the strength to go against my very nature and choose life.  The power to overcome.  And that hope is based on one simple phrase:
   Jesus came to set the captive free.

   If you want to know this freedom, turn to Jesus.  Ask him to forgive your sins, and he will set you free.  Turn your life over to his care because he is Love Himself.  We spend so much of our lives clinging to that self-pity, and anger, and fear, and resentment.  The joy he has can be yours, too.  And Jesus says, "When the Son sets you free, you are free indeed."

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