Dragons seem to come up a lot in discussion lately.
Perhaps it’s that I just finished guiding two different groups of high school students through Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
Perhaps it’s that search I did for a dragon ring so I would remember to bring up the Bad Things in counseling sessions instead of smiling and being okay.
I didn’t get a ring, by the way. I found a bracelet instead. A vintage bracelet. Very understated. Very easy to pass off as just a cool piece of jewelry and hope that it’s not obvious that I wear it every week to our sessions.
And it’s working, so far.
At any rate, the dragon motif came up again this week.
(I know, I know, I’m such an English teacher. Who else has motifs in real life? )
I will try to explain how this dragon came up again, but I have this very suspicious tendency to blank out completely when it comes to identifying relational problems and events, which is one of the reasons I feel the need to blog about it.
I can remember the first and last names of the boys who sat behind me in my high school trigonometry class.
I know the fact that 30 years ago, one of my friends was stood up for lunch by another of my friends, and that he hasn’t ever quite forgiven him.
But I can’t remember what it was I was so upset about last Saturday, or why the ensuing conversation made me feel guilty and take the blame for something, or what it was exactly I took the blame for, or even why I suddenly woke up a day or two later and went, “Hey, wait a minute” when a thought occurred to me about that blame-taking conversation that blew the lid off the situation and made me never want to trust my husband with my feelings again. Nor can I even remember what that all-important, very revealing thought was.
At any rate, after this now-vague occurrence of upset, blame and feeling like I had (again) been duped, I spoke about it with a friend, who suddenly exclaimed, “It’s a deceiving spirit. He can’t take the blame for his side of what’s messed up, so he’s twisting it around onto you, and for some reason, you keep falling for it.” The friend then prayed against that deception and asked the Lord to lift the confusion from my mind. I kid you not, I felt something lift.
And the next morning, I was able to read my Bible and chat with the Lord in a way I haven’t been able to for two months.
It was during that conversation that the dragon came up. I asked Him what I should do about this deceiving spirit. Because it’s not like this is the first time this has happened. This is a long-established pattern. I’m well aware that things get twisted around and that I stupidly take the blame Every. Damn. Time. While he walks away feeling like he’s glad that’s over and that he has restored order (meaning we both now understand that he didn’t actually do anything wrong and that it was me all along).
My high I.Q. is no help here. I fall for it over and over again.
So then, in all fairness, I can’t really be so very angry at my husband for doing this to me. It’s his defense mechanism. If I stood up to him and refused to take it, he might actually stop. Maybe.
Or maybe, you know, I can be angry, but I can also admit that another woman might have stood up to him on the honeymoon and this long-established pattern might never have taken hold.
So I asked God what I should do. How do I draw this dragon out and slay it?
And He told me not to. He told me my part is to forgive the man, but to leave the dragon slaying to Him.
Which kinda took the wind out of my sails, because, come on, Muffy the Dragon Slayer? Seriously. It’s just too good a fit.
But no. He said no. So I guess I won’t be having a TV series after all.
So this leaves me at a loss, because I’ve made a (marital) career out of slaying this dragon. It’s been the thing I’ve carried around and wrestled with for at least the last 15 years. The dark cloud hovering just in the background no matter how good a day I’m having. So the thought that it’s not mine to slay gives me pause. And then I can’t help but wonder what exactly I AM supposed to be doing, if not dealing with this dragon.
The Lord answered that, too. He told me to prepare for my classes that day. When I started worrying about whether or not the dragon would show up in therapy the next day, He cut me short and reminded me that He gives me Daily Bread, not Tomorrow’s Bread, and that today has enough worries without borrowing tomorrows. So I prayed that God would bring that dragon out in session, put the thought of it out of my head and focused on the classes, and halfway through the day got a phone call from my counselor, who had a last-minute emergency and had to cancel the next day’s session.
(The suspicious timing of this cancellation, from a standpoint of spiritual warfare, does not escape me. Ahh, so maybe more time needs to be spent on praying rather than strategizing and rehearsing words…)
And then, of course, apart from that, I had to figure out what else exactly this means, this not slaying of the dragon. It’s a great metaphor. But when it’s a Friday afternoon and I’m still stinging from the words he slung at me the week before, what does it mean then, to not slay the dragon?
So I asked for clarification from the Lord, because it was so awesome that I could hear His voice again. And then the thought came into my head that it is not my job to draw out that dragon of deception, that twisting of my words. I don’t need to write it down and prove to the therapist that this is going on when she’s not around. I don’t need to analyze it and figure out why he’s doing it and strategize how I can help him not do it.
I can just step out of the way.
This doesn’t mean I ignore it. It’s kind of hard to ignore a dragon anyway, especially when he’s breathing fire. But I don’t have to just stand there and take it, either. I can just step back and let the Dragon Slayer take care of it.
And most importantly, I can just let those accusations roll right off my back. I can stop believing them. I can stop taking them on board. They may be based in the truth, because when the Enemy lies to us, he always salts his lies with a grain or two of truth to deceive us into believing them. But they are not the truth. I am not the woman my husband accuses me of being when he feels backed into a corner and unable to dodge responsibility for his actions. That woman is not me. I’d venture to say that even HE doesn’t believe the things he says, so there is no reason I should take them to heart.
And when that dragon is spewing forth its flames, that is not the time to try to rehabilitate it. That is the time to quietly walk away.
Which has made me realize that not only have I been believing lies, but I have also been allowing him to speak them unchallenged. Rather than standing up for myself, I’ve been trying to stop the dragon from roaring by slaying it once and for all. Unfortunately, this is a much bigger dragon than I know how to kill, so it keeps getting the best of me. I can quell it for a time, now and then, but since my husband keeps inviting it back in, I can’t really get rid of it.
But the point is, not only is it not possible for me to slay this dragon, but I don’t need to. I don’t need to go head-to-head with it. I can stand up for myself by simply not believing it. I mean, vocally, verbally, not believing it.
Instead of standing there like an idiot because one shred of truth from the past was mentioned for which I already feel guilty, and then allowing that guilt feeling to be stretched out of all proportion to cover whatever the recent occurrence is that has upset me, I can just say, “No, that is not why I’m upset. And no, the upset you felt 18 years ago when that event happened is not the same thing as the upset I am feeling today, so there really is no point in bringing it up in this conversation. If you feel the need to discuss that event from 18 years ago, we can do that in a conversation that you initiate at another time about why YOU are upset. You don’t get to go there in THIS conversation, because this one is about why *I* am upset. If you didn’t want to talk about why I am upset, you shouldn’t have asked me to tell you.”
So here’s to not slaying dragons. Muffy the Not-So-Much Dragon Slayer. Muffy the Stepper-Out-Of-The-Way. Muffy the Forgiver.
Also, since these thoughts occurred to me, I can’t get this saying out of my head that I saw on a bumper sticker once, which is quite a propos and oddly comforting:
“Never meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup.”