Of Mice & Marshwiggles – Day 4 – Saturday after Ash Wednesday – Turning
Setting the Scene: Eustace tells the story of his transformation from being a dragon back to boyhood.
I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly towards me…..I was terribly afraid of it. You may think that, being a dragon, I could have knocked any lion out easily enough. But it wasn’t that kind of fear. I wasn’t afraid of it eating me, I was just afraid of it – if you can understand. Well, it came close up to me and looked straight into my eyes. And I shut my eyes tight. But that wasn’t any good because it told me to follow it.’
‘You mean it spoke?’
‘I don’t know. Now that you mention it, I don’t think it did. But it told me all the same. And I knew I’d have to do what it told me, so I got up and followed it. …… .at last we came to the top of a mountain I’d never seen before and on the top of this mountain there was a garden – trees and fruit and everything. In the middle of it there was a well.
…. The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first.
‘I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that’s what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. … .. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.
‘But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that’s all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I’ll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again ……’Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, however many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.
‘Then the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.
‘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. You know – if you’ve ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.’
‘I know exactly what you mean,’ said Edmund.
‘Well, 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: ….. 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. 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.
…….’I think you’ve seen Aslan,’ said Edmund.
‘Aslan!’ said Eustace. ‘I’ve heard that name mentioned several times since we joined the Dawn Treader. And I felt – I don’t know what – I hated it. But I was hating everything then. And by the way, I’d like to apologize. I’m afraid I’ve been pretty beastly.’
‘That’s all right,’ said Edmund. ‘Between ourselves, you haven’t been as bad as I was on my first trip to Narnia. You were only an ass, but I was a traitor.’
‘Well, don’t tell me about it, then,’ said Eustace. ‘But who is Aslan? Do you know him?’
‘Well – he knows me,’ said Edmund. ‘He is the great Lion, the son of the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea, who saved me and saved Narnia. We’ve all seen him. Lucy sees him most often. And it may be Aslan’s country we are sailing to.’
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – Chapter 7 – How the Adventure Ended (© C.S. Lewis)
On occasion the task of turning towards God is very difficult. Some of our actions and deeds become so much a part of us that they feel as if they are second nature and there is no way we can ever change. If we are not careful and refuse to apply ourselves seriously to the gift of Lent we may find ourselves to be people who, no matter how much we try, cannot shed the skin of the old self by our own efforts.
I find some times in my life I am desperate to be transformed and am heartily disgusted with my old habits of sin and selfishness. Like the dragon Eustace I cry myself to sleep at night only to wake in the morning and run to do the very things I hate. What are the apostle’s words? ‘Wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death? …..Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!’ These words rang true for me the first time I read them and in my darkest moments I cling to them.
Lent is the time to remove the skin of our old self and allow God to ‘undress’ us even though it may hurt like ‘billy-oh’. This is a time to let God work deep within us for the joy that lies ahead. A time to be set free from pain and be transformed from our ‘beastly’ nature into the pure child God made us to be.
Eustace says something important when he describes what had happened after he had the dragon removed from him
….. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been.
‘Smaller than I had been’…. Is that not the key to Lent? Did not John the Baptist say ‘He must increase and I must decrease? Did not Aslan remind Lucy that every year we grow He will get bigger? The problem of deep-rooted sin is that we become dragon hided and impervious to the world around us. We think we are big and powerful and in control when what we really need is to be small and naked and clean before the One who loves us.
Anyone for a spot of skinny-dipping?
….’But who is Aslan? Do you know him?’
‘Well – he knows me,’ said Edmund. ‘He is the great Lion, the son of the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea, who saved me and saved Narnia.
Dust and ashes touch our face,
mark, our failure and our falling.
Holy Spirit, come,
walk with us tomorrow,
take us as disciples
washed and wakened by your calling.
Take us by the hand and lead us,
lead us through the desert sands,
bring us living water,
Holy Spirit, come
Brian A. Wren
In ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’ © Angela Ashwin – Compiler
Consciously bathe your face in cool clean water and give thanks for your baptism.
Consider using holy water to make the sign of the cross on your forehead as you enter and leave churches.
Find a symbolic way of disposing of the ‘skin’ of your old life. Write a list and burn it. ‘Write’ them with a finger in a bowl of water and see them disappear. Spend some time at the washing machine – getting rid of your past sins as you wash the clothes you may have been wearing when you did not do the best you could.
© Andrew Dotchin 2018