A Slow Fade

Dorian Gray

A while back, I became fascinated with a story written by Oscar Wilde called, “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” It is the tale of a young, naïve man who becomes terrified of losing his good looks. His ego leads him to have a large portrait made of himself which celebrates his handsomeness.

In his desire to remain relevant, Dorian trades his soul for a youthful appearance that will never fade. Even though he continually looks good on the outside, Dorian leads an increasingly evil life and his portrait transforms to show the rot and decay of his soul. He tries to hide the portrait but fails and the ending is, let’s just say, not happy.

I tried to read the novel, but the language was too old-fashioned for me (it was written in 1890), so I decided to see the movie instead. In 1945, film director Albert Lewin put this story on the screen, and he needed someone to paint the portrait showing Dorian’s moral decay. He commissioned Ivan Albright. Although the movie was shot in black and white, Lewin filmed the portrait in color to emphasize Dorian’s shocking internal transformation. I’ve seen this painting in person. It is chilling to look at.

This story highlights the conflict of choosing between good and evil that exists in every one of us. It also is a precautionary tale about how sin can start small, but once it gets a foothold, it can grow and infect and infiltrate. The Christian music group, Casting Crowns, wrote a song about this called, “Slow Fade.” Here are the lyrics:

Be careful little eyes what you see
It’s the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings
Be careful little feet where you go
For it’s the little feet behind you that are sure to follow

Chorus: It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It’s a slow fade, it’s a slow fade

People never crumble in a day. One seemingly innocent misdeed may lead to another. But we have a God who steps into our messiness just as Jesus stepped into the Jordan River to be baptized. We have a God who gives us second (and third, and fourth…) chances. For the sake of Jesus, we have a God who forgives.

Being Human connection: God is inviting us to be wary of the slow fade; to be honest about the justifications of our actions; and to be transparent before him. Even though we may look polished on the outside, nothing on our inside surprises God. Come clean and be cleansed.

Featured art: Ivan Albright, “Picture of Dorian Gray,” 1943–44, Art Institute of Chicago.