As I turn every page of this book (Having a Mary Spirit) I’m just so amazed at how timely it is that I’m reading this, as well as that of the sermon on Sunday [Learn to Look Within]. I reread this section below a couple times, and then a third time as I typed this excerpt. It’s about a story out of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The Chronicles of Narnia was read to me as a young girl, so much of the story is very familiar, including this particular story below, but I’ve never read the books myself. I think it’s about time for me to begin to read it for myself, as this story resonated deeply as I thought about the process I find myself in. As layer after layer is shed, as I become more and more pliable, more and more refined like gold, shaped in the hands of the potter. I long to shed the knobbly, dark, ugliness of the dragon which I find myself in.
In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C. S. Lewis tracks the adventures of a boy named Eustace Grubb. Obnoxious in the extreme, Eustace is always demanding his own way and is certain everyone is against him. When his ship Dawn Treader stops at an unknown island for repairs, the boy wanders off on his own. Stumbling across a great pile of treasure in an abandoned dragon’s lair, Eustace stuffs his pockets with jewels and gold and then falls asleep on the dragon’s hoard. As he sleeps, dark dragonish thoughts fill his heart, and Eustace wakes to find that he himself has become a dragon.
Dismayed by this and other events, Eustace wants to be different. He tries to be different. But at the end of every day, he remains the same–a boy trapped inside a dragon’s body.
Then one night Eustace meets the great lion Aslan, who leads him to a clear pool. Certain the water will ease his discomfort, Eustace decides to bath. But Aslan tells him he must undress first. Three times Eustace scratches at his scales and sheds his dragonish skin. But each time he does, he finds yet another layer underneath.
“You have to let me undress you.” the Lion tells him. Here’s how Eustace describes it:
“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off . . . Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off — just as I thought I’d done myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt — and there it was lying in the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker and more knobbly looking than the others had been.”
Naked and trembling Eustace bathes in the pool and is once again a boy. Aslan gives him a new set of clothes and transports him back to the beach where the ship waits.
Back to his new life. His transformed life.
How we all need de-dragoning, every single one of us. Left to ourselves we can only scratch and claw at our dragonish skin. We make small amounts of progress, but little semblance of change. Until we lay our lives before the great Lion of Judah, asking Him to do the transforming work, our efforts at self-improvement will only yield one layer of dragonish skin after another.
Perhaps that’s why Paul implores us to, in view of God’s mercy, offer ourselves “as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1).