December 25, 2011 Leave a comment
This past year has been an incredibly agonizing one for me due to unexpected family events and the subsequent heartrending trauma that accompanies such a trajectory. At the same time, though, I’ve become increasingly aware of a fundamental shift going on in my own nature – the shedding of my flimsy oft pretentious human nature to reveal Substantial Reality. The nexus between these two versions of my person has been continued prayer for others and a regular partaking of the Eucharist.
The whole divestment process has not been easy. In fact, it has been acutely painful, its unpleasantness much like what Eustace described to Edmund in C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawntreader. Here Eustace relates his dragon skin being torn off by Aslan.
“The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. but the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don’t know if he said any words out loud or not.
I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that’s what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.
But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that’s all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I’ll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.
Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, however many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.
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, 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.
The very first tear he made was do 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. You know – if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.
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. And there I was as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. You’d think me simply phoney if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they’ve no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian’s, but I was so glad to see them.
After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me – (with his paws?) – Well, I don’t exactly remember that bit. But he did somehow or other: in new clothes – the same I’ve got on now, as a matter of fact. and then suddenly I was back here. Which is what makes me think it must have been a dream.”
Here’s what is being peeled away from me (not for the queasy!):
– A sentimentality of the kind that keeps my soul inbred, subservient to its self-rationalizing self-pity.
– The desire to control a situation or someone to obtain a pleasant outcome, to soften reality’s blow and effectively deny its painful truth.
– The need to look good so as to impress others with my abilities, the need to compete for another’s attention hoping to gain the pride of place.
– The impulse to take action when waiting would be the most prudent – not easy, but prudent.
– The lack of acceptance at face-value of knowledge presented as feminine – intuitive, passive, receptive.
– The lack of acceptance of wisdom as a gift from God and therefore not derived as a human accomplishment.
The list, the shedding, goes on…
As this painful process continues I am beginning to see my Real self emerging. This in turn has invoked in me a need to return to my baptismal vows and to those baptismal waters that I at one time had thought only help serve to moisten and seal the earnest of one’s inheritance in Christ. Little attention did I pay to my rapidly developing dragon skin.
Today, by fire and trial and Aslan’s claws, I am being freed of the hardened outer layer of self-protection and I am submersing myself in the waters of my baptism. In doing so, I, the vulnerable suppliant I, has become alive to the REAL – the “perfectly delicious” Real.
This peeling away is all about knowing Christ and the fellowship of His sufferings. That is True Reality.