This morning when I woke up and went out to tend my plants, I noticed that autumn had already taken over my little garden. The basil which had provided me with so much summer caprese was now forgotten and yellow. I had to trim it down in hopes it would provide me a sequel. A cucumber plant had wasted cucumbers languishing in wet earth while engaging a tomato plant with its tendrils to take over my back porch. I realized with a start that it would invade my home, if I didn’t cut it down soon.
Images of Jack and the Beanstalk had been vaguely passing through my mind each time I glanced out the back door, and I felt personally responsible for the tomato plant which the unfruitful cucumber had compromised.
As a child, I never liked the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. I mean, what kind of child takes his mother’s poor cow and sells her for some “magic beans” from a wandering magic bean selling guru? As well, there is so much death and destruction and chopping down of beanstalks towards the end of that tale, I think I figured as a child, the tale was best avoided in its entirely. If it meant something, it meant something very dark and foreboding.
Now I think not. I mean, it does mean something very dark and foreboding, but it is better not avoided, because if you don’t tend to it, it could slip into your house via the back door with the tiniest of tendrils. It is like a thief in the night that one time you forgot to lock up, an unpaid debt, smoking or drinking just a little bit too much, Trump’s untended taxes, or my own untended health concerns, because I worry too much about “helping others”.
I think the tale (like most fairy tales) is a classic parable of good verses evil, and it has a rather unpleasant but necessary Catholic flavor to it.
The Mystery of our Redemption is disturbing, especially to good men. It crucifies good men. As a woman, even just referring to this Mystery or defending it has rendered me “disturbing”. I “disturb” others with what I have to say in its defense, and men assume I must be “disturbed” to so boldly and bluntly honor the Mystery (and so like a disobedient woman) refuse to apologize for doing so, when the exact opposite is true.
You see, it’s easier for mankind that way. No vines to chop down.
Jack’s mother is a prototype for Mary, the mother of God. Jack is made innocent, in the Image of her Son. She warns him to trust no man, only her Son. But Jack is just like every man who means well, but doesn’t listen to a good mother. He thinks he knows better. After all, he’s a man.
The bean salesman is quite charismatic and charming, and there is truth to what he says. He is symbolic of every new age visionary, every yoga or meditation instructor, every anonymous man named David selling an eight point plan to find one’s true vocation, or that trip to Medjugorje people take, even though just authority refuses to approve, because it points to preternatural phenomena.
The beans do not represent timeless Catholic truths as in the three stages of the spiritual life, or the writings of Saint Francis de Sales on vocations. In fact they contradict these things. But the beans do have some life in them and will really grow. The devil is not an idiot. There are some duds in there to be sure, with a virus that will poison the entire plant, but the beans will grow and astonish others with their wonders. There will be some authentic fruit on this tree. As if beanstalks and wandering gurus could take us to high heaven, or to our castles in the sky.
When Jack returns home after visiting the giant’s house, his mother scolds him for not taking her warning against putting trust in man seriously.
However, she does give him credit for the good he has brought out of climbing the beanstalk, those goods which the giant had confiscated, which had really belonged to her husband in the first place.
See, I did good, Mom.
But who is the giant, this sleeping giant, that Jack has not yet awoken?
It used to bother me as a child, how Jack was so careless, playing around near a big sleeping giant, as if this huge elephant in the room posed no real danger to him. It reminds me of how people, impressed by the benevolence and authority of a cult leader, feel they own him loyalty and love. It dawns on me the giant does not represent an obvious threat to our well being, and that is why Jack isn’t really afraid of him.
The giant represents a worse threat, because it is a hidden one. The giant represents those that we dearly love, yet those who threaten our physical, mental or spiritual life. We do not notice they are a threat, because they say so many truths, do so much good, and they point to many truths hidden in their kingdom. They actually do give us some of these truths. We will not realize who they really are, or what demons possess them, until we wake them up, confront them with the reality that they have stolen God’s goods, and twisted a hideous vine growing nowhere into their own image.
They wake up only when you are charitable enough to them to tell them the truth (our moral obligation) to put God before them.
Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman, Be he alive, or be he dead I’ll have his bones to grind my bread represents betrayal by those we love the most, because we have defended God’s truth. It is one of the most painful sorrows there is, this side of Heaven. Does not Peter deny Christ three times? Does not the giant say the fee fi fo fum thing to Jack three times in the tale, like Peter to Jesus?
The giant is what lives inside my own mother that I love so dearly, my loving mother’s pathology, that caused her to bludgeon me in the face as a little girl.
The giant is the abusive parent, spouse or narcissistic best friend who you find out not only betrayed you, but is jealous (of your looks, intelligence, empathy, heart, innocence, whatever it is) and lusts after your blood.
The giant is when you find out the one balanced traditional priest whom you trusted has not only broken the seal of your confession and lied about what you confessed in front of your daughter, but is the very one who spread your delusional mother’s scandal against you and has disbarred you from socializing with your remaining friends at the Church for the “common good”.
The giant is when you take the time to help a man whom you think has potential to be a real man, by both discreetly slipping him the key to expose David Clayton’s evil intent and the key to stop dancing in Beyonce’s shadow, and he instead ignores both key and you, like you’re the ones without potential. He treats the vine that threatens his spiritual well being like just another obnoxious GIF on his Facebook timeline.
By this point, you are devastated by all those whom you thought meant well, that you found out did not. But you are even devastated by those who would still give their very lives for you, and all of your friends, family, acquaintances and the very authorities and powers that be, because you finally realize not only can’t these people and systems save you, but that they were not designed to save you.
Only God can.
I think of my own dating life, and how, even though the view-o-meter on Match.com flipped over at 15,000 views, I could still not find a man among them who could tolerate me loving God more than him.
The worst part of all is the ones you love the most have hurt you the most.
This is why Christ wept in the garden. And even as you embrace this cross, the very Mystery of your personal Redemption, you feel that if the very people you love would turn on you, betray you, even prove of hostile intent, and if your sins of omission have betrayed them, than surely God has abandoned you as well.
But God has not.
He has been in your little home all along, your little house, or oratory if you will, with your mother Mary. She is standing on your front porch. She does not try to sneak in through the back. She is shouting out to you, out in the open, just waiting for you to come home. If you are a man like Jack, God might even use an infinitely much lesser woman, simply to remind you of the maternal. I think of simple minded little Saint Bernadette, who dug in the mud until she got it all over herself, and people felt sorry and were embarrassed, for her. It’s like Bernadette had no sense of self worth, but the opposite is true. It is those of us who are afraid to stop being “polite” and get dirty for a greater good that have too much pride. God allows us to make even a public spectacle of ourselves until more important people will start paying attention. Mary does not creep in through the back door by deception like a noxious vine, and she will never fail to provide the water of Grace. Because Christ is her Son, in whose very Image you were made.
Suddenly, the painful paradoxical truth is exposed, like a pruned, scrawny little sapling that looks dead, but will fruit nonetheless true freedom, peace and joy. You see it all now, after hearing it so many times. What you need is to totally let go and place your trust only in God.
This means not only having faith that God is there, but much harder, believing that God is good, because only He alone sees you and loves you exactly as you are. He does not accuse you of anything or show you false empathy. He will give you everything good you ask of Him, and even more. He was just waiting for you to acknowledge His generosity.
It is as if Mary has been pushing away tendrils attached to your hideous strength of love of man over God all along. But when you return to her, when you behold her standing bravely right there on your front porch, waiting next to Him in Whose Heart you were kept safe all along, it is you who must chop the hideous beanstalk down, or the giant will get into your home and devour your very heart.
For if you do not chop down the vine, if you do not embrace the Mystery, your heart will harden, and you will become the giant monster. You see it all in a flash, what would happen; the unacknowledged and suppressed grief turned into anger, the anger into hatred for all of mankind, but especially intolerance for the small and vulnerable, the weak or feminine, like the sound of a crying baby, just making a disturbance. It is you who will become jealous of those that can still express sorrow, or feel any human empathy.
The chopping down of the beanstalk is most terrifying right before it sets you free.
It will be painful, like a crucifixion, often accompanied with a feeling of toxic shame for having been so gullible in the first place. Don’t fall for this. Toxic shame is just a trick of the devil. Every man is deceivable, except one without the effects of original sin. Imagine that, that the one undeceivable, unbrainwashable mere man was not a man after all, but a mere woman. Are men ashamed that God chose a woman, to become Man? Are men ashamed that God ordered them to behold His Mother? Though we all bear the effects of sin and are not God, we were all (man and woman alike) made equally innocent, because we were made in His very Image.
For those who prey on people of good will, prey on this very innocence and empathy. They prey on you because you still have compassion for others. They are jealous of this. It is this they seek to devour and destroy with sterile rubrics and lies like “If you sorrow over loss or show emotion it really means you are resentful.” It will feel like the severing of your own blood line when you cut down this vine, because often it is. True Godly courage is a blind faith and trust that you are really a child of God first and foremost, and that this more real relationship will support you.
It is the no contact policy I have with my own sociopath mother that I still love.
It is the restraining order a woman with Stockholm Syndrome finally places against an abusive spouse that she thought she was madly in love with.
It is the giving up of a man I deeply loved to whom I was engaged, because he would compromise my faith.
It is the giving back of the engagement ring.
It is the moment you stop pretending your best friendship with someone is “brotherly” love when he feigns “empathy” for you in a private email to another man, because his works were critiqued by a mere woman and yours were not, or worse, when he makes you complicit in his evil.
It is the moment you face down an abusive priest, stop allowing you and your daughter to be falsely scandalized, and instead shout truth from the mountain tops.
People who are deluded by the devil, whether do to sickness or culpability, need hard lessons to learn truth, as do we, and to be placed in God’s hands, not our own which have become soiled with earth. Until they consent to being unraveled by God through Mary, they are a danger not only to us, but to themselves.
For none of us are God, and none of us can play God to save another’s soul. We can only contribute to another’s salvation by offering something up, and sometimes it is our very connection to those that we continue to love, that we must offer up to God to help save them. Because we love them like ourselves. But we love God more.
Dare we think cast not your pearls before swine does not apply to us, because we are special, and our own magic beans will do the trick? Or do we twist the meaning of this command into a loophole to neglect publicly defending God’s Truth, neglect cauterizing a leak?
That Jack is a boy, and not a girl, is significant.
Women reflect God’s mercy, are more empathetic, and are therefore called to forgive, but set boundaries against the men who have broken their hearts. Men have a greater obligation to reflect God’s justice, in serving women. The masculine has an obligation to sacrifice to protect his good mother, from the evil giant who has confiscated her goods.
That is how a boy becomes a man.
If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
“Mother! mother! bring me an axe, bring me an axe.” And his mother came rushing out with the axe in her hand, but when she came to the beanstalk she stood stock still with fright for there she saw the ogre just coming down below the clouds.
I remember the day I left my ex husband. I had no car, and was trapped in the house with my young son and baby daughter. I called my father, who showed up in his car to get me almost instantaneously, as if he had been waiting there all along. I paused for a moment, turned around, and went back in the house to get the diaper bag.
When we were safely in the car my father scolded me. “Next time you are in a situation like that Baby, be ready. Never, ever turn around for anything. A diaper bag is not as important as your life and the lives of your children. Your husband could be keeping a gun. “
I asked my father, but you don’t think he really has a gun, or would shoot someone if he did, do you?
“That’s not the point. I’m your father. I love you. I’ve been in situations like this before. I do not trust that man with my daughter’s life.”
We drove off.
But Jack jumped down and got hold of the axe and gave a chop at the beanstalk which cut it half in two. The ogre felt the beanstalk shake and quiver so he stopped to see what was the matter. Then Jack gave another chop with the axe, and the beanstalk was cut in two and began to topple over. Then the ogre fell down and broke his crown, and the beanstalk came toppling after.
Imagine that. The beanstalk is down, but what a mess it is. At first glance it looks like it has destroyed everything, the giant creature lying dead in your very back yard, like a hideously enormous chrysanthemum.
And Jack finally gives up.
Jack is finally grounded, just like a tiny pebble of sand who finally realizes who he is, and Who God Is.
His soul had always been properly intimate only with God.
Jack finally realizes he cannot trust man, over God.
Because there are no men left.
He is all alone.
So Jack starts weeping.
Jack finally lets go entirely and lets God, because he has no other choice.
Jack cannot pull himself up by his own bootstraps.
He is finally safe at home, whether this symbolizes Heaven…
or Heaven on earth.
In all versions of the story, the mother and Jack get rich off the goods that really belonged to them in the first place. In one, Jack remains with his mother. In another, he marries a princess. We do not know the end of our story, but we do know God will repay in abundance, with our heart’s most intimate, and fondest desire.
And they all lived happily ever after.
I include the following music video in this piece because my father loved country music. The words remind me of what my father said to me, and what God the Father would say to each and every one of us, without exception.