“Beastly Images”

Categories: Monday Morning Meditation

The deep red petals of the rose bush arrest our attention. Birds chirp cheerily as they float upon the gentle breeze. Lush, green trees tower in the foreground. Behind them,  smooth waters glide over the edge of the rocks cascading down to the pool beneath, where a young doe drinks from its refreshing bath. In the distance, we begin to make out a vague image, pointed like the bright green trees, but punctuated with sides of ivory and peaks burgundy. If it is a tree, it is of a much different sort. Our vision sharpens, as our perspective zooms in past the rose bush, the towering trees, and the refreshing pond, and the edifice comes clearly into view looming large over the towering trees. Before us is a grand palace, with many towers, courtyards, and stained glass windows.

Now peering inside the palatial hall of the grand castle a pianist plays music that is at the same time elegant and exhilarating. Dozens of women dressed in pearl dance in handsome harmony, while men in bespoke jackets parley in the background. Before the mass of beautifully figured and adorned patrons sits the young, magnificent prince on a majestic throne delighting himself in the lavish scene. Rising to float and to flit among his guests, the prince immerses himself in the crowd. Dancing, gliding, twirling amidst the revelry and splendor that gilds the room, the prince finds himself without want or concern. He is satisfied, he is full.

But then suddenly the light from the massive icicle chandeliers grows hazy, the chattering voices hush, the twirling women halt. The ornate French doors to the balcony burst open and in hobbles an old hunchback woman dressed in black. Seeking shelter from the storm outside, she stumbles slowly over to the prince. Falling before him she lifts up a single red rose, picked from the bush we saw at the fore. She pleads for mercy and for grace but is met with a face of disgust and disdain. The prince spoiled, selfish, and unkind laughs in derision at the poor woman, and all his guests along with him. The woman warns him, not to be deceived by appearances, and reminds him that inner beauty matters just as much if not more than outer ornamentation but he continued to jeer dismissively. Suddenly, the woman’s true identity is revealed, the haggard old woman becomes a beautiful enchantress. She curses the prince for his beast-like cruelty and the castle along with it. The clamoring multitudes gave way to an eerie emptiness, the elegant music to daunting silence. The gentle breeze turns to a howling gale, the refreshing drink to a lifeless pit. The lush green trees become jagged grey pillars, and the dense rose bush a mass of thistles. Alone in his abandoned place, crouches the prince, no longer regal in his look or his manner. Instead, he has become a gnarled and nasty beast, naked, ghastly, and grisly.

Ok, so I’m not winning any awards for creative writing here. This is just a clumsily worded, adjective laden description of the opening scene of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I believe this story gives us a helpful mental image of what happens to and within us when we reject God’s standard of goodness and seek to follow our own selfish pursuits. We become lonely, broken beasts, with broken relationships, in broken homes, living broken lives. We pursue hastily a promise that we will attain something more when in reality we become something much less. The man who forfeits his family in order to find financial gain, the woman who panders in pursuit of her pride by tearing others down in gossip, and the teenagers who drool lustily after each other all become beasts. The reality of sin, despite the devil’s lie of freedom and power, is that it makes us less like God and more like beasts, given instinctively to our own passions.

This is the reality God was trying to get across to Nebuchadnezzar when He turned him into a beast of the field (Dan. 4:19-33) and it is the reality the Christians in first-century Asia Minor needed to understand about the culture around them lest they grow too comfortable in their current surroundings (Rev. 13:1-18). Let us ask ourselves today, “what are my beast-like qualities? What pursuits or passions do I possess that mar the image of glory and splendor that God has made me to be?" Recognizing this nature within us is the first step in expelling it from us. Only when we recognize our own brokenness, our own beastliness can we turn ourselves over to God to reshape, reform, and recreate us into the image of His Son and our Creator (Col. 3:5-10; Eph. 4:17-24; Rom. 6:1-14).