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Removing Dragon Skin

April 25, 2011

I am re-reading the Chronicles of Narnia, and have come to one of my favorite parts of this wonderful set of stories. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, an unlikeable boy named Eustace magically finds himself on a boat in the world of Narnia. As the boat stops at an island, Eustace wanders off and discovers a cave filled with gold and diamonds and rubies. He falls asleep on this pile of treasures, greedily dreaming of his new found power. What he doesn’t know is that this cave is the hoard of a dragon. When he wakes up, he realizes that he has become a dragon.

After desperately trying to “un-dragon” himself, by repeatedly removing his dragon skin, Eustace meets Aslan the great 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, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat on my back to let him do it.

“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. 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.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.

“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 laying 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.”

Tim Keller, in his book King’s Cross, makes this insightful application to us. “For many of us, it’s hard to read that passage without weeping. Because . . . like Eustace, we thought if we just got a little bit of help we could save ourselves. But we learned that Jesus wanted to take us deeper. We had to let him use his claws and go all the way to our heart and reconfigure the main thing our heart wanted. (p. 32)

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