One of the reasons why I believe in teaching literature, in teaching art for that matter, is because the best of it will always leak, seep, and echo Truth.
My favorite scene in Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo is the one in which Edmund Dantes, wronged prisoner, innocent victim, guiltless convict of 17 years, escapes his cell in France’s Chateau D’If in a body bag, presumed to be the dead body of the priest, and is tossed over the prison cliffs into the ocean below. Out he emerges, sputtering, gasping, tasting freedom for the first time in decades, and leaving behind the young boy, he becomes his destiny as vigilante avenger of injustice, the Count of Monte Cristo.
What a beautiful picture of baptism. From death to life. Rebirth. Rising from the ashes. A new creation, the old has passed, behold, the new has come. Transformation. Beauty from the dust. Hope arising.
I was baptized when I was 19, but it’s taken 10 years for me to see the old Becka still fighting for her space in this world. It’s taken 10 years for me to see patterns, to recognize wounds that have grown, and to realize flaws, sins, and cycles of unbelief that have persisted long after I was dunked “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”
Not to be cheesy, but tonight, ironically, in the bubble bath enjoying a glass of moscato, my Beth Moore video series spoke Truth into me. The message was on “Believing God to Get You to Your Gilgal.” One of the beginning points was based on Joshua 4-5, in which Joshua “retraces Israel’s new beginning and an entirely new characterization.” Hmm. Characterization. I’m a literature teacher, I can speak this language, and I myself could use some new characterization. I’ve seen so much of my ugly, so much of my shame, so much of my broken ways of doing and believing these past few months, I’ve despaired of who I’ve become and begun to honestly hate so much about myself. I’ve felt like some older, better version of me died and was buried so deep even the daisies she was pushing up in her grave began to wilt and die.
But, that’s just it. There’s not some older, better version of me. There’s just me, in need of a new beginning, a new birth, a re-characterization. The old Becka wasn’t better, she was pointing to the need for a new Becka, a better future Becka.
At Gilgal, to return to Joshua, “God brought the Israelites full circle and broke the old cycle.” Lord, have mercy if I haven’t been confronted with some full circles and some old cycles and stared a haunting deja vu in the face in these last few days even. Fortunately and unfortunately for the Israelites, it was at Gilgal that they were circumcized, and where they remained until they were healed. You see, “At Gilgal, God cut away the sign of their unbelief, and they wore the mark of their new beginning.” Often a wounding precedes our full reception of God’s promises, but healing always follows.”
Now to return to the French Romance, what a wound the Count bears: whip marks across his back, an inability to sleep anywhere but the floor, the loss of hopes, dreams, relationships, and 17 years of his life. But what healing followed, what better things came after: justice, mercy, wealth, love, Providence.
My wounds are ever with me these days. I wear them like a large overcoat. But “healed” in Joshua 5:8 means, “to live, exist, in joy-life, to live anew, recover, be well.. to … refresh, rebuild. Paradoxically, by this wounding they were healed.” Paradoxically, by His stripes, we are healed. Christ was our innocent Edmund Dantes, the wrongfully accused, the innocent victim, the blameless atonement. And through his death and resurrection, we are raised to new life with Him.
Amen. I may have been baptized in the Church 10 years ago, but I’m all about needing a baptism and a circumsizing of the heart these days. My life has been characterized by defeat, hopelessness, disappointment, despair, negativity, awfulizing, expectations of the worst, pessimism, bitterness, anger, confusion, indignation, and unbelief. I need Jesus to make me a new character, to take the old Becka, and baptize her into victory, hopefulness, whimsy, positivism, faith, expectancy, optimism, happiness, joy, assurance, peace, and belief. And I know it’s going to take a lot of work, and I know it’s going to take a lot of transformations of the mind, but I think that’s what God specializes in.
We aren’t meant to stay in the Chatea D’If forever, we aren’t meant to wear our scars because we’re still in prison. We’re meant to be free, for God to bring us shalom, to make all things well. And all will be well, all manner of things will be well, even Becka will be made well.