becoming undragoned

I came across this very good article on Boundless Webzine today. It talks about one of my favorite parts in the entire Chronicles of Narnia. Read it and enjoy!

Becoming Undragoned
by Jenny Schroedel

There was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. His parents called him Eustace Clarence and his masters called him Scrubb. I cannot tell you how his friends spoke to him for he had none. So begins one of the most delightful books in C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, featuring the unforgettably appalling Eustace, who liked animals — most especially when they were dead and pinned on cards.

I love Eustace, because as horrible as he is — pouting all the time, self-centered, delighting in tormenting his Pevensie cousins — he me chuckle because I can see a little bit of myself (and almost everyone I know) in him. He is funny because he is so utterly recognizable.

The richest part of his story is his conversion, which occurs in a moment is worked out slowly over the rest of his life. Like Eustace, my own conversion hasn't been quite as linear as I might have hoped — instead, it has been a fitful journey with steps forward and back, moments of grace and stumbling, courage and weakness.

Eustace's conversion involved a remarkable transformation — from beastly boy to dragon and then back to boy — only of an ultimately less beastly sort. For most people, conversion does not involve becoming a dragon first, but then again, most of us don't have an opportunity to sleep in a dragon's lair.

Eustace became a dragon after a sudden downpour forced him to take refuge in a cavern. While there, his thoughts followed their typical dragonish trajectory. He fell asleep and then woke with rough and bumpy scales all over himself. At first he tried to look on the bright side, imagining that his fierce new image would provoke fear in others and give him power. He liked the idea of being a Force To Be Reckoned With.

But he quickly realized that power is a poor compensation for friendship. Why is it that so often in life we're forced to chose between these things? Eustace reminds me of one of my childhood acquaintances. I've worried about him for years — he's even been popping up in my dreams — because he was so cruel. A few weeks ago, I ran into his aunt and asked how he was. She told me that he was doing really well as an attorney. But that wasn't what I was asking about. I didn't want to know about his career. I wanted to hear if he had become more human.

For Eustace — and for most of us — he had to face the ugly truth about himself before he could become more human:

He realized that he was a monster cut off from the whole human race. An appalling loneliness came over him. He began to see that the others had not really been his friends at all. He began to wonder if he himself had been such a nice person as he had always supposed.

As a dragon, Eustace began to see how difficult he had been. Compelled by his desire for companionship and understanding, he lugged himself back to the camp where his cousins and the other sailors were. After they realized that under all those layers of dragon skin he was actually Eustace, they begin to genuinely enjoy him, perhaps for the first time ever.

It was however, clear to everyone that Eustace's character had been rather improved by becoming a dragon ... after it became chilly as it sometimes did after the heavy rains, he was a comfort to everyone, for the whole party would come and sit with their backs against his sides to get well warmed and dried; and one puff of his fiery breath would light the most obstinate fire.

Eustace began to experience what it is really like to love and to be loved by others. He began to devote himself to concrete acts of kindness. As he poured his energy into caring for his friends, he forgot to think about himself constantly. A loving community does help balance out the pain of authentic self-knowledge. Perhaps this is this part of why 12 Step Programs tend to be successful. The awakening occurs in the context of a loving, transparent and supportive community.

These relationships protected Eustace from the despair that is never to far away, because it is, after all, "a dreary thing to be a dragon," just as it is a quite dreary thing to own up to our own weaknesses. It was so bad for Eustace that he could barely tolerate his own reflection in the mountain lake, and he needed to sneak off by himself to eat, because he was so ashamed of his rough ways.

But God does not inspire an awaking just so that we can see who we are — the knowledge is given to inspire transformation. God is light, but he doesn't shine his searing rays into our life just to expose our ugliness and sin. His light, like the sun coaxing new life out of seeds, seeks change. And this is what happened to Eustace the Dragon, whose awakening preceded encounter.

That night, a lion came to him and told him to undress. Eustace began to scratch at his skin, and it slipped off like a banana peel. As sweet as it was to be free of that scaly skin, he quickly discovered that beneath the top layer, there were more and more layers.

Anyone who has begun to try to break free of sinful patterns knows how discouraging this process can be. I often feel like I've conquered a vice in one area of my life only to see a fresh manifestation of that same vice in another. Like Eustace, I can begin to peel away layers but I cannot "undress myself" completely.

Here's Eustace, describing his encounter with the lion:

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, but 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 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 peeled off.

Part of conversion is recognizing our own powerlessness to change ourselves. We must surrender. The change begins in a moment but we choose it again and again for the rest of our lives. Our ongoing surrender to grace is a slow walk — more turtle than hare. We are nudged along this difficult and discouraging path by hope, just like Eustace, who was always just "beginning to change."

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.

Copyright © 2007 Jenny Schroedel. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

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Yay! I was officially accepted into college on Monday! I went for an interview with my counselor (who wasn't there but I met with another *very nice* lady) and she accepted me! I am so thankful! And then I spent about an hour with my advisor, Mr. Wells. *also very nice* He helped me plan my courses for this semester and helped me register. So now I am also registered for all my classes!! :-) Yay! I will find out if I got the scholarship sometime this month. Here are all the classes I will be taking: Childhood Nutrition and Safety, Composition, Child Development, Infant & Toddler Methods & Lab, and Early Childhood Education Technology Seminar. Total credits: 15. I am a little scared about going to college but am very very excited and thankful! Mr. Wells also showed me around the Early Childhood Development center they have at the college where I will be alot of the time, observing kids and learning about them and stuff. It was so neat. He was introducing me to everyone "This is Katherine, our new Early Childhood Education student!" Wow that sounds so weird. I am a college student now! AHHH!

Anyway, I won't bore you anymore with my boring college news.

Yesterday Emily and I went with some friends from church down to Rehoboth to go outlet shopping and then out to eat at Cracker Barrel. It was very fun. Except for the time when a horrible car accident happened about 10 feet away from one of our cars. We drove in 2 cars and the people in the other car saw it happen but we just heard the crash and then saw the car after it had flipped over. But our friends in the other car actually saw it fly in the air and flip over. It landed on its roof, and totally smashed in the roof on the driver's side. We got so scared and just started praying. We are not sure if anyone was killed or anything. I am so thankful that God was watching over us. We were so close to the accident, it very well could have happened to us.

Well, I must be going to work now. Talk to y'all later!

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That's right! As of last Friday, I am officially done with school! I can't believe I am finished with high school. It feels so awesome but yet so weird. Now I have to start thinking about college! I have an interview at DelTech next Monday. I am most likely going to be attending there in the fall. At least for now. I also applied for a scholarship so hopefully I will get free tuition. My chosen field of study (since this small community college doesn't have anything involving music, which is what I really want to study): Early Childhood Education (0-K). I am really excited about this and I hope & pray that this will be a really good experience for me. I am a little scared but it is very exciting! God is good and I am thankful that my parents have homeschooled my sisters and I all of our lives. I think it is an awesome privilege to be homeschooled. I wouldn't have traded it for anything else in the world.

My family and I are planning a graduation celebration dinner sometime this month or next. I wish you all could come. I will be sure and send you announcements though!

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