Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Undragoned

All last week, I struggled to describe what my personal prayer ministry session was like and what it meant to me. Within me lives a powerful drive to define things. But how does one do that when the thing lies on the outer edge of comprehension?

I should probably let things well alone and allow mystery to be mysterious, but that's not my way. My six year old's incessant need to understand? He gets it from his mama.

God often speaks to me through images and metaphor. Sometimes these come to me in dreams and visions, but more often than not, they come by way of the everyday. In conversation, a situation with the kids (this is a big one), something I read.

God is a master of giving moments meaning.

I had such a moment Sunday afternoon while reading C.S. Lewis's Voyage of the Dawn Treader to the kids.

 
The book begins with this brilliant opening line:

"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."

Generally, I see myself in Edmund and Lucy more than Eustace. I've been both traitor and the lonely one who sees things no one else believes. But something happens to Eustace I very much relate to.

About halfway through the book, the adventurers make land on an island to repair the ship after a massive storm. A series of selfish actions brings Eustace to a cave belonging to a dragon. The dragon dies before Eustace's eyes, and so to escape the rain, Eustace takes shelter in the cave and discovers the dragon's horde. Now, as Lewis points out, Eustace hadn't read the right sort of books, so he didn't know as we do that dragon hordes are cursed.

Eustace slips his arm into a golden bracelet inlaid with diamonds, with the hope he'll be able to escape his comrades--whom he still believes to be insane--and use it to barter his way into a nearby country. Then he falls asleep. But when he wakes, Eustace makes a terrible discovery.

 Eustace is now a dragon. 

When he sees his reflection in the pool outside the cave, the sight breaks him. The bracelet, which he'd intended as a means of escape, is now a chain cutting into his flesh. It hurts. He can't get it off. A great, black hole of loneliness swallows him up because he realizes that as a dragon in a human company, unable to communicate or share life, he's isolated. And for the first time in the story, Eustace weeps.

It's a terrible thing to really see yourself.

Eustace manages to return to the others and communicate to them who he is, but no one possesses the power to help him. Save one.



In some kind of dream or vision, Eustace sees a huge lion approaching. Though he's afraid, he follows the lion to a garden he'd never been to or had even seen during his days as a dragon, though he'd explored the entire island in the air. At the heart of the garden is a well large enough to bathe in.

Eustace somehow knows if he could just get in that well, his arm, which throbs from the grip of the golden bracelet, would be healed. But the lion tells him he must undress first.

The lion isn't speaking in terms of clothing.

So Eustace starts scratching. At first, a few scales fall off. He scratches deeper until his whole skin peels away.

But it isn't enough. Underneath the skin is another just as hard, just as scaly as the first. So Eustace undresses again to no avail. And again. Still no good.

"You will have to let me undress you," the lion tells him.

And though Eustace is afraid of the lion's claws, he lies on his back and lets the lion do his work.

"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...Then he caught hold of me...and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. 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."
The bracelet falls off, and after a time, the lion takes Eustace out of the water and dresses him in new clothes. The lion, of course, is Aslan.

This is what my prayer session was like.

Suffering has a way of helping you see the dragon within. And let me tell you, it's a ghastly sight. For the past few years, I've been scratching at the scales, sometimes cutting into the knobby dragon skin beneath and wrestling my way out, but I could never get to the heart of the issues. I could never reach the layer of fresh, tender skin and come clean.

What the prayer team did for me was facilitate a meeting with Aslan. They showed me the way to the well.

Sometimes we need that. No matter how long we've walked with the Lord. No matter how sheltered we were as children. Regardless of our heritage, how strong people think we are, or how strong we think we should be. We need our brothers and sisters in Christ to come alongside us and show us the way to the well. Or at least remind us how to get there.

It's the way things work. God uses people. The Church is the visible invisible.

I didn't like exposing my dragon skin. The sight's pretty traumatic to me; exposing it to others wasn't fun. But I wanted that blasted bracelet off. I'd been in a fight with it for years, and I just couldn't win. I was desperate.

I needed Aslan's claws.

Once the Lord undressed me, He gave me something new to wear. (He never leaves us naked, you know.) And then he reminded me of the song of Eustace Scrubb.

Jennifer Simmans, a dear friend of mine and fellow music connoisseur, recommended Into the Lantern Waste, an album by Sarah Sparks. The songs are all inspired by C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. Each song boasts its own merits, but my favorite is "Eustace Scrubb." Of course.

I've copied the lyrics below, but you can listen to the song for free here. I recommend purchasing the entire album, particularly if you're a Lewis fan.


 For the first in my life
I’m not living a lie
And I hate who I am
I’ve become what I feared
And I cried dragon tears
Just to prove I’m a man

I tried to change my appearance but I am not changed
I’m just tired
I tried to heal myself long before I met your gaze
At the water
I’m at your feet
Would you tear into the deep of my heart
To heal me?

I’ve seen my own reflection
I know the pain I’m in
I’ve been a lonely wretch and
I can’t get out of it

As he looked through my eyes
At the things I despised
I felt pierced by his gaze
But he pealed off my skin
And he then threw me into
The water to save me

I wore this bracelet, bright and golden
That overnight became a chain
I was a lonely, wretched soul that
Lost in the dark cried out your Name
You cut me deep, I know I felt it
But it’s the sweetest kind of pain
Oh, sweet relief, You took my burdens
Oh, I believe! Oh, I believe!



So yeah...that's what it was like.

And you know, I didn't shock anyone. I didn't lose my new friends. They still love me, hot mess that I am, and don't think any less of me.

As for me, I'll love them forever, but none so much as the One who undragoned me and healed my arm. 

I'll sing His song till the day I die. And beyond.

2 comments:

Talena Winters said...

What a beautiful way to explain it. Healing is hard and wonderful. Hugs.

MelissaKeaster said...

Thanks, Talena. Hugs to you.