I've been reading The Voyage of The Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis to my children. I'm pretty sure that I enjoy it more than they do. They don't quite understand the depth and breath of it. They still just get terriblly excited when Aslan comes to the scene, or when Reepicheep claims he will run his sword through Eustace. :)
But me, I find little treasures of truth throughout it that make me stop reading, blink away tears, and wonder about the goodness of my God.
In The Dawn Treader, Lucy and Edmond get sucked back into Narnia with their obnoxious cousin, Eustace. Eustace spends most of the time complaining and making life as miserable to the others as he possibly can. As they sail, he writes in his journal, lamenting over his plights (most of them imagined), fights with Reepicheep, and demands that the entire ship see him back to his own world so that he can report them all to the British Consult for kidnapping him. At one point, he wanders away from the group when they land on a mysterious island. Disaster strikes and Eustace is turned into a dragon and quickly finds that being a dragon is no fun at all. He is scared of his own reflection, finding himself ugly to look at. He doesn't know how to fly without crashing, breathe without blowing smoke, or eat the way he used to. His life is a mess, and there is nothing he can do to pull himself together.
One night, when everyone is asleep, the dragon Eustace wakes up to find a lion walking toward him. The lion leads him away from the group to a beautiful bath. Eustace is in so much pain in his new dragon body that jumping into the bath seems perfect--the balm to his aching body that he needs. But the lion stops him and tells him that he must first undress. Eustace looks at his scaly body, and with vengeance and hatred of this new skin, he runs his claws over his dragon belly...scrapping, peeling, convinced that he can shed this skin like that of a snake---and he does, but not enough. Frustrated, in pain, afraid that he will be stuck a dragon the rest of his life, Eustace sheds one layer of skin after another, but he is still not free...
Aslan, the lion, the Highest of all High Kings, stops Eustace, telling him that he will have to undress him. Painfully, but strangely gentle, the lion digs his claws into Eustace's belly, cutting, ripping, tearing away...until relief and peace washes over the dragon-boy. When Eustace emerges, the pain is gone, but he feels raw. Aslan leads him to the bath...the warm, healing water washing over Eustace...washing away all trace of the previous life Eustace had led. When he comes out of the bath, Eustace is free of the bondage of his dragon skin. He is a boy again, but he is changed--inside and out. The ugliness, both inside and out, that had been there before Eustace was even transformed into a dragon...was gone. Eustace was made new.
How many of us hold onto ugliness self-inflicted on ourselves, or inflicted on us by others? Sometimes, it is our disappointments in life--our heartbreaks--that keep us in bondage in a life that we can't seem to shed/shake on our own. Life is cruel, at times. Life hurts. Life is simply unfair.
"Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. " ~ Hebrews 10: 22-23 (NIV)
It hurt Eustace when he tried to shed his skin--his ugliness--on his own. But not only did it hurt, it didn't work. I cannot let go of past pain on my own. I cannot forgive my enemies on my own. I cannot become the beautiful woman I want to be on my own. I can try and try and try...but it will be futile. A new layer of hurt and pain will be right underneath the last. But if I stop trying to do it all on my own...if I willingly lay down before my Lord and let him take it all away...I'll rise up, tender and raw, but beautiful...even more so than before.
Lord, let me be a light--something beautiful that people can gaze upon and see Your face, Your smile, reflected. Let there be a testimony in my past pain and anguish, that others might see how I've become something new. Take whatever remains, whatever hurt I'm still clinging to. Make me shine. Make me shimmer. Make me completely...yours. Your ways will out weigh my own every time.
We are engraved on the palm of Your hand--each of us. Your eyes will never sway to the left nor the right, but be forever on us. Our walls are ever present before You, and You are determined to tear them all down. Take our pain. Make us new.
How wonderful to know that He loves us that much?