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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Dragon lumps and deeper unveiling

We will finish Voyage of the Dawn Treader tonight, in our second or third time through the CS Lewis Narnia series.  These books are always fresh with Lewis' grasp of reality, seen more clearly in the imaginary worlds.  In this book a boy named Eustace is inadvertently pulled into the adventure with his cousins, and Eustace is not a nice boy.  He's self-centered, complaining, wimpy, and often just plain mean.  He sneaks off from the others and ends up in a dragon's lair, where his greed turns him into an actual dragon.  When he emerges, he is big, lumpy, scaly, and frightening.  In fact at that point his physical form reflected the truth of what his heart was like all along.  This chapter coincided with our Sacred Sorrow chapters on Jeremiah, where Card points out that God's judgement on Jerusalem is to simply make visible what was already spiritually true, the city had lost her true glory.  And it coincided with my turn to share prayer meeting with Annelise, who suggested that we organize our prayer requests under the headings of "unveiling" and "inviting" (I found out later that her intent was more along the lines of beauty and Song of Solomon, but that's OK).

The Spirit used this coalescence of readings and thoughts to unveil the dragon lumps in my own heart.  Many missionaries point out that the challenges of living cross-culturally, or in poverty, or under constant stress, do much to make our sin more visible.  Eustace was always beastly, but he didn't really know it until he saw himself as a dragon.  And I've always been judgmental and impatient and self-concerned, but Bundibugyo makes it much easier to confront those issues on a daily basis.  Being pushed to the limit can be a good step towards pulling back the surface of nice-ness.  When Mackline died in my care, another kid named Christopher dwindled from what I think was basically a slow poisoning by his grandmother's herbal enemas, and I watched yet another child gasp his last agonal breaths this week, I was left with a sense of failure and sorrow and discouraging, scaly, desire to run away from it all.

But in Eustace's case, the unveiling down to the dragon layer is not the final unveiling.  Later he meets Aslan, the lion who pictures Jesus in the stories.  At Aslan's instruction he peels off the dragon scales, but every time he does so he finds another layer of hard, ugly dragon-flesh underneath.  Finally he allows Aslan to use his sharp claws and go deep, removing all the layers of dragon.  And underneath is the new Eustace.  The real Eustace.  A frightened, lonely boy who no longer wants to be isolated by his mean-ness, a bright child with a kernel of courage who wants to be loved.  

The unveiling of judgment (making visible what was spiritually true) allows the unveiling of healing (ripping off the hard crust of sin to reveal the true soul God made).  The untame lion may seem to wound, but he really frees.  There is a hymn which says:
When through fiery trials thy pathway may lie
My grace all-sufficient shall be thy supply
The flames shall not hurt thee I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

And there the "inviting" comes in.  What we really need, is the Presence of God.  Card's book points out that it is rarely what we ask for, but always what we truly need.  All the burning and washing, peeling and pain, are simply means of removing the barriers between us and God.  

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