“Billy Bixby was rather surprised when he woke up one morning and found a dragon in his room. It was a small dragon, about the size of a kitten…”
My wife and children introduced me to a great little book called There is No Such Thing as a Dragon by prolific author and illustrator Jack Kent. As in all good stories, your attention is peaked right at the beginning as little Billy, just waking up one morning, is suddenly faced with a small dragon sitting on the end of his bed.
Billy heads straight downstairs to tell his mother who immediately states, “There’s no such thing as a dragon!” (And, we are told, “she said it like she meant it.”)
Due to this response from his mother, Billy does what a trusting child would do, and he ignores the dragon. At least as much as possible. Even as the dragon attempts to get his attention, Billy won’t pat its head because “if there’s no such thing as something, it’s silly to pat it on the head.”
The first problem arises when the dragon does not just go away. It follows Billy around the house, and begins to eat all of the food, doing whatever it wants. Nobody tells it to stop because, “There’s no such thing as a dragon,” and everybody knows you can’t tell something that isn’t something what to do or what not to do.
The next issue that has to be dealt with is that the dragon is growing very large very quickly, so he’s definintely getting harder to ignore, and making life quite difficult, even to just get around the house. In the end, the dragon gets so large that he finally walks off with the house on his back. Mr. Bixby comes home from work to find his house is gone, and sets out to find and rescue his wife and son. When he does find them he calmly asks, “How did this happen?” At this point Billy will have no more of ignoring the dragon and emphatically states, “There IS a dragon! A very BIG dragon!” (And here he finally pats the dragon on the head.)
The dragon then suddenly begins to dramatically shrink, all the way back down to kitten size, and the story ends with the family realizing that the dragon must have gotten so big because he just wanted to be noticed.
There are a number of take-a-ways that could be learned from this little story. Some have used it to talk about bad habits and hangups that are ignored, and that will eventually destroy lives and ruin homes, if they are not acknowledged and something done about it. And that is a good lesson to learn. But I want to look at it from a different angle.
There are times in life when we are faced with questions and “realizations” that we did not go out looking for, but found them sitting on the foot of our bed one morning, so to speak. We come face to face with something that completely “throws us for a loop”, something that is not supposed to be, well… true. It is something that goes against what we have always thought and been taught. And when these things happen, the temptation can be to give it no credence whatsoever. Fear takes over. And, truth be told, there is good reason for fear.
As Professor Müller-Hill once said, there are two types of truth. First, the truth everybody already knows, and second, the truth that is not yet discovered. “Most persons deal… with the first type of truth… and thus simply produce more of the same. The second type of truth is different. At first it looks too bizarre to be true, and it may be as dangerous as fire. If you are not clever it may destroy you.” (For a quick illustration of this sort of danger, look no further than those first disciples of Christ.)
And so, the easiest thing to do is to refuse to acknowledge that it is there, to laugh and mock (and even persecute) anyone who would suggest so, and to hope that it will all just go away.
But it doesn’t.
And to go on in this way eventually just becomes what we see illustrated in little Billy Bixby and his mother— willful ignorance.
Here is my main take-away lesson from this little story. These “small dragon” moments can be a test for us to see if we really do want the truth, or if we are only interested in maintaining and guarding our own premises and paradigms. Unfortunately, many people who think they are all out for the truth, are in actuality not out for the truth at all. The mindset is one of, “We already have that all figured out, so quit bothering me with your silly little facts.” (And they say it like they mean it.) But they forget that we are smack in the middle of a story that God is writing, and God’s stories always have the best of plot twists. So it would do us well to have a little humility, a little courage, and to take heed to our stubborn ways.
A couple of points that I believe are important are these. First, I do believe that there are probably many more of these “little dragons” today than there have ever been. And I believe the reason for this is due to the extraordinary wealth of our time— the wealth of knowledge in and through the phenomenon of the internet, and the wealth that has freed up our leisure time, allowing us to put our energies into so many other interests than just surviving and finding our next meal. Much that was true ignorance in the past has to be willful ignorance today, if you still want to hold to a disproved premise, in spite of the facts. A good example of this is Paul addressing the Areopagus in Acts 17. Paul told the men of Athens that “the times of ignorance” up to that point “God overlooked,” but now that the truth of Christ had been revealed, He “commands all men everywhere to repent.” In other words, they were required to change their mind and their thinking. And, of course, this kind of truth talk was always dangerous for Paul, bringing fire down on his head.
Another point worth noting is that everyone cannot take on everyone else’s “little dragons”, and fight everyone’s battles. If we find ourselves always going out looking for a fight, then we are merely being contentious and helping nothing and no one. We must have the courage to deal with those “little dragons” that show up in our own room. But we must also have the wisdom to know when to say, “That’s not my battle. God may have given that one to them, but not to me. At least not right now.”
Very often the truth really is stranger than fiction. But God really does own the truth— all of it. And when it pops up on your bed one morning, it is of no use ignoring it for too long, or giving heed to those who say it’s not allowed. You might as well reckon with it. Because if it really is right there in front of you, it isn’t going away.
If it’s truth it wants to be noticed, and it eventually will be. If it’s truth it needs to be noticed.
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One thought on “There is No Such Thing (or, You’re Not Allowed to Believe That)”
I gave that book to Jennifer….. 🙂