The Bible provides rather disturbing instruction to cut off your own hand if it causes you too much trouble. I prefer to interpret that through hyperbole and use it to mean that sometimes you need to do hard things to get better. Sometimes a good thing needs to go in order to get to a better thing. This is a metaphor that surfaces in many stories.
Many years ago, a movie called “Fresh” came out. The story focuses on a poor kid growing up in a terrible inner city neighborhood. With a gift for chess, he played in the local park. He protected his queen more than his king which often brought about his defeat. His love for his queen prevented him from excelling at chess. Eventually he saw that this metaphor in his life. He protected his older sister, the one who “taking care” of him, endangering himself in the process. When he decided to take control of his own life, to create the change needed to escape the tragic life he knew, he found that he needed to put the queen at risk. Could he sacrifice his queen to win the game?
Fewer years ago, but still a little ways back, the season two finale for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” presented a similar conundrum. Angel, Buffy’s great love, had turned evil during the course of the season. While evil, he had opened a portal to hell using his own blood. For Buffy to close the gate to hell, she needed to use his blood to do so, sending him into damnation. Even though he was evil, she struggled to overcome her love for who he had been in order to do so. Buffy had to kill and damn her lover in order to save the world.
In a more recent movie, “The Beaver”, Mel Gibson plays a man in deep depression who fails at killing himself after ruining his business and his family. As he wakes up from the botched suicide, he develops another personality to help him deal with his situation. He wore a puppet of a beaver on his hand and used that personality to interact with the world. He decided that his life as it was was a complete wreck. Repairing it wasn’t an option. It needed complete demolition and rebuild. Thus, the beaver. Just getting to that point is pretty close to my initial thought. Could I completely redo my life?
But then, the new life created had its own problems, becoming a new wreck. Gibson’s character realizes that he needs to eliminate the new personality. He abandons the person who can interact with the world. Again, a tough choice to sacrifice a big thing for a better thing. But the puppet has become the embodiment of that persona. The only way to divorce himself from the beaver is to cut it off. He uses a table saw to chop off his hand and the puppet. He lived out that scripture.
How far am I willing to go to create change in my life? Can I give up my addiction to cola to be healthier? To lose weight, will I change my lifestyle? Can I cut out cable to save some money? I know, none of these seem as extreme as the stories listed above, but they are the challenges that I most immediately face. On all three of these points, my hand offends me. But I am unwilling to cut anything off. I trust that I can find the courage to eventually make these changes.
My hope is that I can learn to identify these situations and resolve them when they are a matter of just clipping my nails rather than losing a hand. But that requires attentiveness, awareness and focus. That alone is a significant change, something of a rebuild.
But, to have a better life…