I don’t know how it is for you, but I find that God speaks to me through just about everything in my life. Of course, I have to be paying attention and I have to be able to recognize His voice from other things that try to masquerade as Him, like my own thoughts, the world or the Enemy. But the more time I spend in relationship with Him, reading His word, praying, listening, and obeying, my ability to discern His voice from the background noise becomes easier and more natural.
And so it was as I was watching Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Since the story of Narnia is sort of a metaphor for Jesus it only stands to reason that there would be wonderful, Biblical messages in it. But for me, within the story there was a very personal and very clear message; “You are not fooling yourself, I have changed you.”
It came toward the end of the film when Edmund, Lucy, Eustace (their very ill-natured cousin), and Caspian were rowing toward Aslan’s country. Eustace had recently been turned back into a boy by Aslan after becoming a dragon from putting on an enchanted arm bracelet (in the book he turns into a dragon from his ”greedy, dragonish thoughts” ). Sitting in their small boat Edmund asks Eustace what it was like when Aslan turned him back, and Eustace replies:
“No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t do it myself. Then He came towards me…it sort of hurt, but it was a good pain. You know, like pulling a thorn from your foot.”1
The description in the book is a little different, and more detailed. In the book Aslan comes to Eustace in a dream and tells him to “undress” himself. Eustace scratches at his dragon skin and peels until he can just step out of it. But then he notices that he has another smaller skin underneath. So again he scratches, sheds, and steps out of the dragon skin, only to find yet another beneath it.
Then Aslan says, “You will have to let me undress you.”2
Eustace goes on to describe how painful Aslan “undressing” him was. He says, “…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.” Eustace continues, “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: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been.”2
Oh how I can relate. My whole life there were so many things I wanted to change about myself. But no matter how I hard I tried (and I did try very, very hard), no matter what method I used, no matter how many desperate attempts I made, I could not affect any real or lasting change, particularly in my temperament. I kept peeling off layer after layer just to find another beneath that was even more hideous to me than the one before it.
(Which points out a significant difference between Eustace and me. It wasn’t until he became a dragon that he realized what a disagreeable boy he had been. I, on the other hand, have always been acutely and painfully aware of how unpleasant I can be.)
For some reason I kept on trying to be someone else even though nothing helped. But what I didn’t realize through it all is that what I was trying were those things that were the least threatening to my personality. I’m not saying some of it didn’t go deep enough to hurt, I’m saying I chose things to do that fit my temperament. So they weren’t painful in the way that true change is painful, they were painful in the way that staying the same is painful. My persona is highly critical, negative and self-deprecating, so the methods I chose to “fix” myself put my faults under the microscope for me to scrutinize, or up on the big screen for others to judge, and just made things worse.
Eventually I found myself drowning in a quagmire of my own creation. And it was then that I finally became desperate enough to do the one thing that I had until then been unable to do: I relinquished the aversion to Jesus that I had adopted in response to some early childhood religious experiences, and submitted myself to the authority of Christ. And since that time changes have been occurring in me that I know could only have come from God, because of all those years and ways I’d tried to change myself with no success. And pretty much every day I pause in awe and wonder because God is transforming me from the dragon that life, circumstance and my polluted way of thinking had turned me into, to someone that is of use to Him and that I can stand to be.
Meanwhile, back in Narnia (the book), it is said, “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.”
And so it is with me. I too have relapses, and in those moments my critical viewpoint doubts and disputes that anything really has changed about me. And there are certainly those who might say I haven’t changed at all. Which is why the loving reassurance I “heard” as I watched the movie meant so much. It was an affirmation that the cure has begun. And it is with a grateful and unpretentious heart that I relate to you one of my very personal and intimate experiences of what our powerful, gracious and loving Savior can and will do for us if we will just let Him.
1The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 2010
2 The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis