Beliefnet
Prayer, Plain and Simple

 

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“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it…”

So begins C.S. Lewis’ classic work, “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” The feature film version opened yesterday in theaters.

I know Eustace, the pouting, self-centered, peevish tormentor. He makes me smirk, chuckle and squirm, because I see actual people I know in his character, including – mostly – myself…

“Dawn Treader” is Eustace’s story, and mine: how a human soul can descent to monstrous depths, then find un expected and undeserved redemption through surrender to One who alone can convert.  

Spoiler: On an island where Eustace is supposed to be helping the mission at hand, he instead sneaks off and finds a dragon’s lair. There, fed by his greed for the horde of treasure Eustace is transformed into a dragon. At first he relishes the power, but soon isolation and shame make him realize the truth: he is an intolerable monster. He begins to want to change.

That night, a lion comes to Eustace telling him to “undress” out of his dragon-ness. Eustace tries to scratch at his skin. At first it seems to work, as the scales slip off like a banana peel. But just as soon Eustace discover that another layer of dragon skin lies beneath the first. In despair Eustace realizes he cannot cure himself. He isn’t merely wearing a dragon suit; he IS a dragon…

But wonders never cease; there is no magic, even in Narnia, but there are miracles… Eustace via Lewis later describes what happened next…

“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, but I can tell you, I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it…. That 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’d ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.”

Lewis tells truth: Conversion begins only when I recognize that I cannot change my skin. There is no “self-help,” no “extreme soul makeover.” I can never cure myself. Only if and only when I surrender to the One who rips deep the fibers of our dragon-ness, can I ever hope to be the boy, the man I was created to become…

I am Eustace Scrub… Then, and now…

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