Recently, I have fallen in love all over again with The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I have read these books a few times over but hadn’t picked up my trusted copy in over 10 years. As I read it out loud to my students over the past six weeks, I found myself caught up in the adventure, the classic language, use of symbolism, and one of the clearest pictures of the Gospel outside of Scripture itself. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe will always hold a place in my heart because I honestly think that is where my heart for literature was born. Recently, though, what breaks me more is not Aslan sacrificing Himself but when Lewis provides the clearest picture of sanctification in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
At the start of the novel, the reader is introduced to Eustace Scrubb, who honestly is a terrible character. He is whiny, entitled, selfish, and greedy. As luck would have it, Eustace find himself in possession of a very large fortune which causes greed and ‘dragon-ish’ thoughts to plant a seed of sin in his heart. He starts to entertain all the ways his life could change now that he would live in financial comfort. He places a gold bracelet on his arm with a sense of satisfaction and proceeds to fall asleep. In a turn of events, when Eustace wakes up and he is no longer a selfish boy but now has embodied a terrifying dragon.
The first indication that something was wrong was a sharp pain Eustace now felt on his leg. The gold bracelet he was wearing before the transformation was now tightening around his scales and causing a handicap. He was now experiencing a physical pain that matched the deepening ache in his heart to which his isolation was taking root. In the last effort for humanity, Eustace the Dragon started to cry. In the depths of his loneliness, Aslan shows up ready to show his grace and mercy in a way that Aslan only can.
Aslan leads the dragon to a top of the mountain and they come upon a well. Eustace starts to see that the water can ease the pain he has been feeling but he first must be undressed. In a moment of desperation and panic, Eustace begins to tear away at his scales only to discover after each layer there is another layer to tear through. He soon starts to realize that all of his work is done in vain and there is nothing he can do to rid himself of that pain. He has to allow Aslan to intervene, no matter how painful the lion’s claws may be. Lewis spends the next few paragraph painting a picture of sanctification that brings me to tears every time I read it. To quote Lewis himself:
“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…he peeled the beastly stuff right off — just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt — and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me — I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water…after that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. . . .after a bit the lion took me out and dressed me in new clothes.”
I repeat, ‘he dressed me in new clothes.’ What pierces my heart so uniquely in this image is that in order to be dressed in new clothes, he had to allow the Lord to take the scales off. No temporary fix will work, no work of human hands will do. Healing hurts. The process hurts. It is raw and vulnerable. It is uncomfortable. There is no magic fix to speed it up. There are days it feels like the battle isn’t worth it, the fight for wholeness is to out of reach. There are setbacks, there are tiresome days. There are moments of pleading with the Lord to stop because it is too hard. But there is grace, amazing grace. We are called to the water to be washed clean. We are a new creation when the process is over. We have hope and joy unspeakable.
During the process, the Lord does not make light of the pain. He gives us Psalm 143 to comfort people to see what is truth in the times when temptation for anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, or stress is stronger than usual. This Psalm has served as a rock the past few weeks. David appeals to the Lord’s character so earnestly and diligently. David’s prayer reveals that he believes that God is powerful, good, and faithful. It is an example of belief in God’s greatness. David reminds the believer to remember the core of who He is, His character. I trust the Lord’s character until I don’t. Comforted by David’s example we can see that in the moments of hardship, David had to remember the ways the Lord had shown His faithfulness before. It keeps us grounded to go back and see where the Lord has show immeasurably more (Eph. 3:20). It reminds us of what is true and isn’t true about Who He is. The Cross reminds us of His sovereign plan and how He gave His own Son for our good.
My dragon skin is being shredded right now. The fight for my thoughts, my heart, and my flesh is at war. The Lord is tearing through the scales and preparing to dress me in new clothes. Turning my heart of stone to flesh. The dragon is becoming a girl. He who began a good work will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6) But when the tearing of the flesh is finished, and we are clothed in new clothes. We walk in victory with a story of a God who is faithful. The joy is ours.