Swimming in Grace
Recently, the movie “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” was released.
I read this C.S. Lewis book in seventh grade. I hated it.
I read it again in college. I cried over it.
One scene was so powerful to me, and I looked forward to seeing it on the big screen, but of course the imagination-charged screen of the mind’s eye is always more powerful, more vivid, the 4D of movies.
The scene I loved is a scene of grace, as only C.S. Lewis could create.
Eustace is an annoying little prig of a character who gets swept into a Narnian adventure with Lucy and Edmond. He is insufferable, self-righteous, and judgmental. Under a series of circumstances in which he is very greedy, he gets turned into a dragon, and a very miserable dragon at that. It is a humbling experience and he despairs of ever being normal again.
One night, while he is alone, he sees a vision of a great lion approaching him. (In all these books the lion Aslan represents Christ). Eustace is in some pretty bad pain due to a gold bracelet stuck on his dragon arm and the lion invites him to come bathe in a pool of water where he believes his pain will be relieved. But when he approaches the water, the lion tells him he must undress first.
Eustace begins to scratch at his dragon scales and succeeds in scratching off an entire dragon skin, which he casts on the ground, surprised at how nasty it looks once it is off. So he proceeds toward the pool, only to see that his skin is just as hard and rough as before. So he scratches some more and casts off another nasty layer of skin, only to see that again, he is just the same ugly dragon underneath that layer, too.
He begins to wonder how many skins he must take off to bathe in the pool, when the lion tells him “You will have to let me undress you.” Eustace is scared but so desperate to bathe in the pool that he lies down to let the lion work.
“The 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’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off…”
This time, when Eustace emerges from the dragon skin, he is tender but smooth and the lion throws him into the water where his pain dissipates in the joy of swimming. He is a boy again, but a different boy entirely.
Each of us has our own dragon-skin of sin that we are helpless to remove, helpless to truly change. If we want to bathe in the waters of grace, we must go to the lion, Christ to let Him remove our dragon skin for us. He doesn’t promise it won’t be painful to lose our old self, that comfortably dense, selfish dragon-skin, but He does promise that we will emerge a new creation entirely.
Eustace couldn’t do it for himself. He would have been stuck at the edge of the pool forever, trying to change his skin. He had to submit, to acknowledge that he couldn’t do it, and let the only One who can do the job.
We can’t do it either, but praise God He invites us to the pool of grace and makes the way for us to swim.
Some of us need to let the dragon skin go and let Christ transform us for the first time.
Some of us need to swim joyfully in the grace-pool we’ve already been given access to. The waters are deep enough for diving and the temperature is just right.
For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came to be through Jesus Christ.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.