Monday, July 18, 2011

An Ogre Layer Cake

"Ogres are like...onions!"  
"They stink?"  
"Yes... No!" 
"Oh, they make you cry?"  
"Oh, you leave 'em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin' little white hairs..."
"NO! Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers." 
"Oh, you both have LAYERS. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions. What about cake? Everybody loves cake!"
"I don't care what everyone else likes! Ogres are not like cakes."
"You know what ELSE everybody likes? Parfaits! Have you ever met a person, you say, 'Let's get some parfait,' they say, 'Hell no, I don't like no parfait'? Parfaits are delicious!" 
"NO! You dense, irritating, miniature beast of burden! Ogres are like onions! End of story! Bye-bye! See ya later."  
"Parfait's gotta be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet!"

This conversation between Shrek and Donkey is one of my favorite moments in animated cinematic history. It always makes me laugh, which is why I allow such a weak transition:

Sometimes, I am like an ogre.

I have layers, and, I would argue, they are more like an onion than a parfait. Not a nice, caramelized, Walla-Walla sweet onion. No, I am one of the stinky, foul, yellow onions that absolute destroy my mucus membranes. My peeled-back layers stink up my house and make me cry.

I am not sure what He is hoping to find at the center of me, but God keeps peeling back my layers. Just when the pain begins to subside, He digs in again, stripping back layers and layers of pride, fear, mistrust, and weakness. Honestly, I would have been fine if He hadn't started on this last layer. I was feeling pretty good: sufficiently humble to know that I wasn't perfect but successful enough to be free of self-doubt and conviction.

And then the peeling.

"Growth" is something of a misnomer. It implies methodical progression from juvenile to adult; the process is fairly unidirectional. I feel like what we call "growth" is more like exploration or revelation. I dig into myself, revealing sin and weakness, and sift through the dirt, trying to cull out the impurities. But just when I feel like I have accomplished something, God rolls up in his backhoe and tears up the earth, revealing another layer of filth. I feel like I am excavating my soul.

So about those layers...

Lest you think that I exaggerate the naughtiness of my sin-nature, let me share with you a bit of the stinky onion layer currently under His fingernails:

I am dishonest.

Not impressively, though. I suppose that's probably a good thing; if I was dishonest about something impressive, like grand theft auto or my loyalties to the Russian Mafia, I might not be so ashamed of it. Instead, I am dishonest about stupid things, things that make me look foolish, ignorant, or naive.

For example:
  • I am ashamed to admit that I only recently read Blue Like Jazz, because I know that this puts me about 6 years behind the cool curve.
  • I am scared to death that by the time I read Crazy Love, I won't have anyone to talk to about it. "Crazy Love," they'll say, "What is this, 2008? More like 2,000-and-late."
  • I am afraid that people will one day find out that my vast and profound knowledge is really just a cleverly disguised knack for googling.
  • I'm scared to admit that I have no idea what you're talking about so I just nod along until I can steal a moment alone with my smartphone.
  • I'm afraid that, like Mr. Inman in the 12th grade, you'll actually ask me to support my vociferous opinions with facts.
  • I'm afraid that you'll look up "vociferous" and discover that I've used it incorrectly.

These are all relatively silly, the really nasty stuff is more insidious because it disguises itself as honesty. I talk about authenticity and even admit that I'm a sinner, but the only sin I confess is that which I have already prepackaged and separated from myself. This is not real honesty because it doesn't cost me anything; there is no vulnerability. I am willing to admit my sinfulness but I'm not willing to feel it. I'm not willing to wear it in the present. 

This is a stubborn layer but I do think it can be torn away. The trouble is that there is stuff in the way.

In carrying with the tradition of the "Walden Weekend," I'd like to start pulling up the weeds that are sucking nutrients from the good things planted in me so that this excavation process is a little easier or to "drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms." See, I keep coming back to this idea that it is possibly to live differently, free from the empty expectations of a Culture of Affluence.

I can't help but think that, maybe, if we, if I, weren't so heavily rooted in the peripheral things, it'd be a whole lot easier to actually do the Christ-ish things, things like being loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, gentle, faithful, temperate, and honest. If these "unseen" things are real and eternal and the visible "stuff" is temporary, wouldn't it be a whole lot easier to be "authentic" without so much stuff?

Isn't that something we all want but never seem to actually pursue? It's not just an idea, it is vital and I'm so tired of just talking about it.

Here's to living stuffless.


  1. I love you even when you're an ogre and when you google fancy words. :)