I was opening up to a wise counselor about how I felt that this season in my life has been a humbling one, characterized by the stripping of things I hold dear and have prided myself in. A theme that has been recurrent throughout my life since the age of 18 when severe clinical depression stripped me everything I placed my value and worth in – my successes, my beauty, my dreams, my sanity. She asked me to translate this statement in to other words. “Okay, fine,” I said. “It’s like God is robbing me, continually taking away things I have put too much stock in.”
She asked me if I ever read the Chronicles of Narnia. No, I said. Never been a fan of fiction, I said.
My wise counselor proceeded to tell me about the story of Eustace, a rotten, selfish and stubborn boy in the book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The scene starts with Eustace finding a large treasure. He imagines his life with this fortune and falls asleep at the foot of the treasure only to awaken as a dragon, a manifestation of his greed and selfishness.
The bracelet Eustace put around his wrist was painfully tight due to the thick dragon skin he now found himself in. That pain mixed with the emotions from now being alone and isolated was to much to bear and he began weeping, big, ugly dragon tears.
Aslan the lion, who bears the image of Christ finds Eustace in his mess. Aslan leads Eustace to a mountain-top garden and then to a well.
“You will have to let me undress you,” says Aslan the Lion. Eustace was desperate and even his fear of the lion’s claws didn’t stop him from lying flat on his back. Here’s what Eustace experienced:
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. . . .
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 was I 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. . . .
After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me . . . in new clothes.
If we’re honest we all have some dragon in us. But underneath that dry, scaly skin is someone made in the image of God and wholly and dearly loved. We’re even loved in our dragon costumes — I say costumes because it’s not who we really are. Yes, we are all wretched apart from Christ but that’s not our new, true identity. We each need a rescuer, we cannot take off our false identity on our own. We might rip off a layer only for another to reappear. God approaches our mess in mercy and desires to set us free and make us new creations.
My wise counselor asked me a profound question: Do you see this experience, this season as God stripping you of things, or God desiring to set you free of strongholds? Sometimes, okay, oftentimes the removing process of our false identity hurts. I’m there in that season….God is trying to set me free and it is painful. But there is a glorious reality up ahead. My job is to trust the process and believe freedom is possible.