One of my favorite portions of The Chronicles of Narnia is chapter five, six, and seven of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. It is a brilliant story within a captivating story. The self-centered, irritable, lazy Eustace sneaks away from his stranded shipmates to avoid the work it was going to take to get their Dawn Treader seaworthy after the storm. Eustace falls asleep in a dragon’s lair and wakes to find himself a dragon: “Sleeping on a dragon’s hoard with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart, he had become a dragon himself.” He was trapped in that body – miserable and alone. “He realized that he was a monster cut off from the whole human race.” In his despair, Eustace finds himself longing to be with the very people he had so recently disdained.
If you haven’t read it recently, please do. It’s worth a re-reading or a first reading.
In a beautiful depiction of redemption, Aslan un-dragons Eustace. The boy – now humbly joyful – is welcomed back to the ship; a true and willing comrade in the adventure. Restored.
Chapter seven ends with this:
“It would be nice, and fairly nearly true, to say that ‘from that time forth Eustace was a different boy.’ To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun.”
I am struck by the fact that C.S. Lewis – not yet the widower stepfather of the Gresham boys – gets it. The day-in-day-out of being a parent – or being a friend – and being a person – provides ample experiences with the dragons among us. To see the scales and not the skin.
But the narrator has eyes to see the deeper reality.
The narrator – with his all-seeing gaze – sees the whole – not the moment.
He sees the boy’s lapses as just that – lapses.
He sees the trajectory – not the glitch.
He sees with grace – not criticism.
He sees the end from the beginning.
He sees what is done.
The gentle narrator knows that the cure – once begun – will be accomplished. No doubt.
And perhaps, the narrator’s confidence in the cure allows Eustace to more readily shrug off the old and live in the new. To remember that Aslan has given him new, perfect clothes – he doesn’t need to wear the scratchy, punishing dragon skin.
Of course, Lewis’s insight is not really – or primarily – about the tiresome people in our lives. It’s about us. Our redemption. And about the Father’s great patience and forbearance with us. Our sanctification. It’s Him absorbing our sin over and over again. His peeling off the scales so that we can see. See others – and see ourselves. Redeemed and being sanctified.
God knows that His good work will be our completion. It is finished. No doubt.
“I am sure of this,
that he who began a good work in you
will bring it to completion
at the day of Jesus Christ.”
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Please note: quotations are taken from The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis – originally published in 1952. Cited here from the version published by Barnes & Noble, 2009. The words are all Lewis’s – the emphases are all mine.
The illustration is all Pauline Baynes. I’m not sure how to give her enough credit. She awakened my imagination when I was a small child and first entered Narnia with my dad.
Thank you, Dad.♥