Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Free From This Old Skin

When I was growing up, I read through all of the Chronicles of Narnia.  Then in college I read them again .... and actually appreciated them!  Recently Brett and the kids were reading through A Horse and His Boy.  When I asked the kids where they were in the book, I got caught up in the imagery again of the race to Archenland and the mystery of talking animals.  Such a wonderful read!

And the recent movies based on the books have been stunning, too!  A little too intense for my brood, but Brett and I have enjoyed the first two.  If you can imagine, we haven't yet made it out of the house to see "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" ... we typically plan those outings a few weeks in advance! :)  But I have heard that it is a visual treat as well.  That story is possibly one of my most favorite tales ... for one scene in particular.  I'm not certain that it's in the movie, but I hope so.

I'll set up the story for you ...

Lucy and Edmund have returned to Narnia, this time with their unpleasant cousin, Eustace.  He is a stinker ... with a capital "S".  Eustace is a trouble-maker, a whiner and a greedy little ...well, Stinker. :)  Throughout the first half of the book he complains and grumbles and then he ends up in a bit of a pickle.  He finds himself in a dragon's lair and due to his greed, is actually turned into a dragon.  (Let that be a lesson to you:  If you find yourself face to face with a dragon's glittering treasure ... don't try to take any of it!)  Now he finds himself a dragon:  scaly, lumpy and snaky.  A little snapshot of just what he was like on the inside:  horrid, snake-like and stinky.

Upon being reunited with his cousins, they are shocked and he is shunned.  What are they supposed to do with a dragon?  Even if he is their cousin and he is feeling remorseful for all his stinky-ness ... he is still a dragon, and a serious problem.  He is forced to sleep outside of camp and begins to truly feel badly for what a rotten, selfish, whiney mess he has been.  As a constant reminder of his greed, one of the dragon's golden bracelets is cutting into Eustace's scaly leg, making him even more miserable.  But here's where the story gets good.

One night, Eustace is sitting and picking at his swollen, sorry, snaky leg when a lion approaches him. He describes himself as being "afraid of it" (page 107) not that it would eat him, but just because of who it was.  Aslan.  The lion leads Eustace down to a well with, "water bubbling up from the bottom" (page 107).  When the poor dragon sees it, he knows in his heart that it would be so refreshing to bathe in it and it would certainly make his swollen limb feel better.  But before stepping in, the lion tells him he must undress first.

For the next several minutes, Eustace "undresses" himself out of his snaky, slithery, stinky skin by scratching.  It was just, "as if [he] was a banana" (page 108).  After peeling off his layer of old, scaly skin, he goes to step into the water, but is surprised to see that there is another snaky, slithery, stinky layer underneath.  And another.  And another.  The poor fellow is desperately trying to get out of his old skin and finds that he can't.  Here's where I tear up every time ...

Aslan says, "You will have to let me undress you." (page 108)  Eustace confesses that he was afraid of the lion's claws, but he felt a keen desperation to be free from this scaly prison.  I'll let C.S. Lewis tell you what happened next in his own words:

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 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.  (page 109)
Poor Eustace winds up a horrendous scaly creature because of his selfish, stubborn snaky-habits ... but finds healing in the fierce touch of "the great Lion, the son of the Emperor-beyond-the Sea" (page 111).  And he ends up a meek and mild young man ready to approach life differently, with humility and grace. He is a different character from here on out and it is exciting to see his transformation and new life!

How often have I tried to get out of my old skin, my old habits, my old stinky-ness and found that I was unable?  So many, many times!  But here in this children's book is the true key to being free from our old scaly skin ... letting Jesus do the hard, painful work of "undressing" us.   Only with His help do we have any hope of being "smooth and soft".  And only after yielding to His work in our lives will be "smaller" ... less of us and our pride and self-sufficiency ... and more of Him!

As I'm sure you have already guessed :) ... Sara Groves has a song about this very topic.  And as you can imagine ... it's one of my favorites!  This is from her album, "The Other Side of Something".

Like A Skin

By Sara Groves

The butterfly can just look back
Flap those wings and say Oh, yeah
I never have to be a worm again

The snake gets tired of being him
He wriggles from that itchy skin
Leaves it lying where he’s been and moves on

I’ve been longing for something tangible
Some kind of proof that there’s been change in me

Feels like I have been waking up
Only to fight with the same old stuff
Change is slow and it fills me with such doubt
Come on New Man where have you been
Help me wriggle from this Self I’m in
And leave it like a skin upon the ground

We all have old "skin" that we would like to wriggle out of and leave behind us "upon the ground".  Just   to keep us on a level playing field ... I'll share a few of mine. :)  I have a dreadful habit of sighing (ewww ...), throwing myself a "what about me?" pity party when I have a tough go at something (ughh ...), and an unhealthy fixation with what other people think of me (hmph ...).

Sometimes I feel like these are parts of me that I will never be free of ... that I'll forever be a sighing, grumbling, self-centered stinker. :)  But then I remember the promise that God makes in 2 Corinthians 5:17:  If anyone is in Christ, the new creation as come:  the old has gone, the new is here!  Yeah!

That means that if I trust Jesus to work in my life and let Him do the tough, painful work of undressing me of my old, unhealthy habits, He will make me new.  And someday, I will see "proof that there's been a change in me".  I'm looking forward to it because I have a whole life ahead of me ... and I don't want to stay a stinker!

1 comment:

Thanks for visiting! Your comments are warm fuzzies! (And con-crit is always welcome, too.)