So I’ve been relistening to the Chronicles of Narnia on Audiobook recently, and I’m currently making my way through Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
At one point in the story, the character Eustace, who up till this time had been totally rude, selfish, whiney, and overall just a real pain — discovers a dragon’s cave on an abandoned island.
Now thankfully, the old dragon that lived in there had already died and the cave was now empty — so when a big thunderstorm rolls up all of a sudden, Eustace gladly takes refuge inside the cave. While waiting for the rain to stop, he ends up falling asleep atop the great big pile of gold in the dragon’s lair.
When he wakes up… to his horror… he finds that he himself had BECOME a dragon! Scales, claws, teeth and all! He was no longer a grumpy, self-centered, little beast of a boy… he was now quite literally a terrible fire breathing DRAGON…
Eustace remains in this miserable state for some time — totally beyond hope of any kind of cure — until one night, he suddenly sees Aslan, the great Lion, coming toward him on the beach. Silently, Aslan leads him away… off to a pool of water in the mountains. Eustace feels drawn to go down into the pool, but the only problem is: he’s too big to fit.
So he thinks to himself: “If only I could peel off some of these dragon scales, perhaps I could fit down into that pool and be refreshed.” So, Eustace claws off a whole layer of his dragon skin, and steps out of it, like a big snake shedding his skin. At first he is relieved, but when he looks down at his reflection in the pool, he finds that he is still all scaly and rough… and still too big! So he scratches and claws another time, and peels away a second layer of dragonskin… stepping out only to find that he’s STILL not rid of the whole thing. So he does it a third time — but it’s just no good.
However many layers of dragonskin he clawed away by his own desperate efforts… he remained a great big, terrible dragon.
At long last, Aslan himself steps in and says: “You’ll have to let me.” …And though Eustace is understandably afraid of the lion’s claws, he agrees to surrender… and let Aslan do it for him.
So the Lion sets to work, and proceeds to tear away — somewhat painfully I might add — the whole entire dragon skin.
And then…BAM… it was finished! — Eustace had been un-dragoned!
He was a little boy again — totally changed, renewed, and relieved of the great burden of all those nasty scales and claws. He was transformed, both inside and out!
Let me ask you this:
Are you feeling weighed down?
Do the responsibilities of your life feel too heavy to bear at times?
Does your struggle with personal sin fill you with desperation and shame?
Are you finding it downright impossible to get rid of your dragonskins once and for all?
…You keep peeling away more and more, tearing away layer after layer after layer… you’re doing everything you can to rid yourself of sin… to “put to death the deeds” of the flesh as St. Paul said…
…but when you look into the mirror of your soul, you only see a dragon staring back at you.
If that’s you, then be not afraid.
Jesus sees you.
He loves you.
And He says to you: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Let that word sink in deep for just a minute…
Jesus wants to give you rest.
Thank You, Lord!!!!
I want that rest…
I want the real-life Aslan — Jesus Christ Himself — to come to me and say: “You’ll have to let Me do it. You’ll have to let Me un-dragon you… Your own efforts, necessary and good and holy as they are… will never be enough. Give up the hope of ever fixing yourself! Surrender to Me instead! Let Me save you. Come to Me… I will give you rest.”
It can be really frustrating, but it’s almost as if we each need to come to the very end of our own efforts — we have to try so hard to un-dragon ourselves and ultimately come to some sort of “rock-bottom” experience of failure just like Eustace did — before we each finally realize:
“I literally can’t do this on my own. I need help. I need a savior!”
And then we see Him: “Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you!”
Look! The King of Heaven Himself comes to give you rest! He comes to ‘un-dragon’ you! He comes to peel away all the nasty layers of scales and sins and faults that surround you and hold you bound. He comes to relieve you of your great burden! And His yoke is easy… His burden is light!
As our Psalm today put it so beautifully: “The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. The LORD is good to all and compassionate toward all his works. He lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.”
We might even add: “The LORD comes to completely un-dragon us!”
Jesus himself will do it. He will heal us, not ourselves. He died on a Cross and rose from the dead to accomplish precisely this… to transform and renew us. To make us into a New Creation. To place the Holy Spirit into us so that “we are no longer in the flesh but in the Spirit” as St. Paul says. We are, in principle, no longer in dragon skins!
But the question now is: Are we willing to submit to Aslan’s claws?
Are we completely willing to surrender ourselves to the LORD who says to us: “Come to me, and I will give you rest… You’ll have to let me do it.”
This is the really tough part for us. …Because we’re so stubborn!
At some level, we’re still under the insane impression that if we just try harder the next time… if we just grit our teeth a little firmer, and really put our back into it, THEN we can carry our own burden… THEN we can get rid of our sin… THEN we can fix our family. THEN we can make the world all right again. THEN there won’t be any more suffering. THEN we can be worthy of God’s love and we won’t even need His help! We’ll be free of the dragon inside us if we just shed enough layers…
Thanks Aslan, but we don’t need your claws after all!
Thanks Jesus, but we don’t need your crucifixion! We don’t need your salvation! We don’t need your free gift of grace!
But here’s the thing:
If we go on insisting to do it ourselves — if we so exhaust ourselves peeling back layer after layer after layer of dragonskin… we’re never going to come to the end of it. There will be more and more layers, and we will get more and more discouraged by the state of our souls, the state of the world, of the Church… Everything.
And once that sort of jaded discouragement sets in, then there is the very real risk of simply resigning ourselves to the lie: “Well, I guess I’m just a dragon. That’s just who I am. This is just the way it is.”
That is no way to live.
Instead… We need to learn how to surrender.
We need to surrender to the King who comes to us, meek and humble.
We need to surrender to His loving, yet sometimes painful claws.
We need to surrender to Jesus, the One who promises us rest from all our burdens, if we only take his yoke… receive his burden.
If you don’t know how to surrender, then a good place to start is a devotion called the Surrender Novena.
Have you heard about this?
It’s a wonderful prayer. For 9 straight days, you meditate on the providence of the Lord, and all the ways He is taking care of your life, lifting all your burdens and carrying them with you, and how useless worrying really is…
And every day, you finish by praying the following prayer 10 times:
“O Jesus, I surrender myself to You, take care of everything!”
This is the heart of surrender. This encapsulates what it means to come to Jesus and find rest in Him:
“Jesus, I surrender to You. Take care of everything. Take care of my sins. Take care of my struggles. Take care of my worries.
Take care of my dragonskins!
Un-dragon me once and for all!
I surrender myself to You.