A Bad Haircut, Breaking Bad, and the Monogamous Truth
It all started with a bad haircut. The girls at Supercuts had been doing an A+ job on my rather unchallenging haircut for years. But as I sat in the chair one afternoon, eyeing a heavily tattooed gal buzz to and fro atop my head, I decided it looked so easy that I could do the same at home. So the next weekend my children were with me, I planted myself in a back porch chair, placed in my daughter’s hand a newly purchased pair of clippers, and let her go at it. At first, all went as right as rain. As the more challenging task of trimming over the ears presented itself, I reassured my daughter, “You can do this. Just take it slow and easy.” So the #2 guard popped off. I sat statue-still. And the bzzzz of the clippers neared my ear.
A few seconds later, my daughter uttered that most momentous of words, “Whoops…” My son, who’d been a spectator to all this, slapped his hand to his mouth. And I, who but a few minutes before had been calculating how much cash I’d be saving over the next few months, ran to the nearest mirror, threw on a baseball cap, and hightailed it to Supercuts. Grinning rather sheepishly, I pulled off the cap to reveal to my tattooed hairdresser the quarter-sized bald spot on the side of my scalp. When I showed up to work on Monday, sporting my usual goatee and the new look of a virtually shaved head, one of my coworkers hollered, “Hey, Heisenberg!” And that, dear reader, is how I was introduced to the award-winning series, “Breaking Bad.”
Heisenberg, as I was to discover, was the street name chosen by Walter White, who is the high school chemistry teacher turned meth cook in “Breaking Bad.” Early in the show, the goateed “Heisenberg” shaves his head, thus the inspiration for my coworker’s nickname for me. His reasons for the radical haircut, however, were worlds different from my own. Walt is fighting lung cancer. And since the chemo is already leading to hair loss, he pulls out the clippers and razor one morning to hasten the inevitable.
As I sat spellbound, episode after episode, season after season, I beheld the transformation of a man. Without revealing too much, lest some of you have yet to watch the show, among the array of changes in Walt, the one that most captivated me was his gradual acclimation to the lie. Not only did falsehoods ripple outward to permeate his whole life, he also improved at telling lies. At first, he bungles it. But over time, practice making perfect, he can lie with the best of them. Indeed, it becomes second nature for him, for his whole life is steeped in a masquerade of mendacity.
The lie is a seductive lover, as Walt discovered, and as I discovered at a point in my life as well. It harnesses a host of emotions, everything from fear to our deep-seated desire for happiness, and uses them to create phantom realities to which we desperately cling. We turn to the consolation of the lie when confronted with truth so painful, so frightening, we don’t want to face it. How many children have slipped farther and farther into darkness because parents hid their heads in the sands of the lie that this was just a rebellious phase they’re going through and they’ll be back on the straight and narrow soon enough? How many marriages have gone from sick to dead to rotting while one or both spouses clung to the lie that somehow, someday, things would work themselves out and love and fidelity would magically return? The lie is a physician who calls lung cancer a chest cold, who keeps pumping meds into a body with no beating heart. For the lie pretends to put the best construction on everything.
The lie is not only a seductive lover; it’s also realistic and crafty. It knows that it can’t have all of you at first, so it’s willing to share you with truth, at least for the time being. In fact, the lie is agreeable to a ménage à trois between you, the truth, and itself. It puts itself out there as an open-minded, open-bedded lover. The lie was fine with Walt having a secret life cooking meth, so long as he was doing it to make money for his pregnant wife and teenage son. The lie is fine with the pastor who’s a closet alcoholic or porn addict or adulterer, so long as his teaching and preaching is in conformity with the Scriptures. The lie is fine with a church the doctrine and practice of which is mostly in accord with the Bible, but which clings to a tiny bit of heresy or unbiblical practice here and there. Why is the lie so free of jealousy? It’s not. It only pretends to be. The lie is supremely patient. It knows that, so long as it has a foothold in your life, it will steadily gain more ground. So it bides its time. Like a drop of dye dropped into a cup of water permeates the whole, so will falsehood gradually take over, until no aspect of your life is free of it.
As beautiful as the truth is, as freeing and heavenly and perfect as it is, the truth is hard to love. Unlike the lie, which seems so easygoing and flexible and understanding, the truth is intolerant of anything opposed to it. She will share you with no lie. Nothing short of your whole-hearted, whole-bodied affection does she demand. It doesn’t matter if it’s in your public or private life, in the boardroom or in the bedroom, while the world is watching or while you’re all alone, the truth wants 100% of your attention. She knows the seductive power of the lie. She knows that, like herself, it wants all of you, but it goes about that complete conquest craftily. And truth knows that the lie has an ally within you, that weak and self-serving nature slouching inside, one that is all-too-agreeable to the broad and easy road.
But truth knows that the broad and easy road leads to ultimate destruction. The lie decimates marriages, destroys careers, pollutes churches, corrupts officials, perverts pastors, and ultimately ushers its devotees into the yawning mouth of the fiery abyss. Truth is the other side of love, and love will have none of that death for you. The love of God compels him to compel you to a life of truth. As hard as the truth is to face, to love, and to remain faithful to, you will find only there a peace that is more than momentary. For there you will find truth and love embodied in the man, Jesus, who gives you his all, and demands your all, that you may find in that unity of truth and love, a life really worth living.