A Strange Case

“Half of my heart's got a real good imagination 

Half of my heart's got you 

Half of my heart's got a right mind to tell you 

That half of my heart won't do” 

~John Mayer, Song: “Half of my Heart”

On Mondays I have a 40 minute commute on a bus out of Prague. The scenery is nice, but not much to write home about. There are some rolling green stretches, and then there are some industrial plants that often linger on the outskirts of cities. To pass the time, I’ve been reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll. It’s a book I will be reading with one of my English classes this fall, so I figured I’d get a head start.

In Robert Lewis Stevenson’s epic tale, the well-mannered lawyer, Mr. Utterson, is perplexed when asked to prepare the will of Dr. Henry Jekyll. While Dr. Jekyll is a kind, gentle, and well-known man, he surprises Mr. Utterson by leaving all of his worldly possessions to the rude, mysterious, and notoriously violent Mr. Hyde. Throughout the book, Mr. Hyde’s behavior becomes increasingly destructive and murderous, and yet Dr. Jekyll continues to defend him. It is only at the end of the book that Mr. Utterson makes the famous realization that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are the same person; Dr. Jekyll’s personality having been compartmentalized by a laboratory experiment gone wrong.

I have my own Mr. Hyde. While my Hyde is not prone to violence or rage, there is a side of my personality that tends to be anxious. In fact, this summer, after months of chasing phantom chest pains, doctors determined I had nothing physically wrong with me, beyond a bit of anxiety. There are, of course, days that it doesn’t bother me. Other days, I can’t hide it and the anxiety takes control.

Personality is surely a complex part of our being, and there are lots of ways we get in our own way. We may be fearful. We may be angry. We may be worn-out. We work too much. We may doubt ourselves. And while these single traits do not define us, they often cause us—and those around us—unnecessary angst and pain.

The moral of the story of Mr. Hyde, though, is quite unique though. When Dr. Jekyll tried to rid himself of his flaws, he instead gave them power. Instead of destroying his anger, he literally turned it into a monster that destroyed him. This could have been avoided by simply embracing his weakness as part of who he is.

This echoes a profound biblical truth! In 2 Corinthians 12:19, Paul says, “But [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.”

In the end, there is nothing we can actually do to heal ourselves. Life is not about defeating our demons, but learning to live alongside them. My anxiety is part of what makes me who I am. If I focus on controlling it, I lose every time. But when I live on in-spite of the anxiety, I grow closer to my God. I live more fully, not by changing myself, but by loving myself.

And, if you find yourself this day fighting a battle inside, may your weakness not grow into a monster. Instead, may you love yourself fully, and may your flaws fuel you to grow closer to our God.

Zachary Herzog

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