Two years ago I had a conversation with friend and CS Lewis scholar “C.S. Lazo.”—I’m reminded of this conversation as I have recently had the privilege of fellowshipping with friends from the C.S. Lewis Foundation (Lazo among them), which has just held a conference in Oxford and Cambridge…. We were talking then about making a dramatic presentation of a character from the Narnia books that would represent C.S. Lewis. It was in preparation for a conference focusing on the conversion of the esteemed theologian and philosopher.
I asked Lazo, “Which character [from Narnia] do you think Lewis most identified with?”
Without pausing Lazo pronounced, “Lucy.”
“Okay, I was thinking a guy.” Especially if I needed to turn it into a fully developed mime. “I was thinking a character who reflects Lewis’ conversion.”
He thought for moment then, and replied, “Eustace…” and then he quoted several lines from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader illustrating the priggish selfishness of Eustace, and the absolute need for a redeemed heart. Now we were talking!
In the story Eustace is pulled into Narnia, and hauled aboard a vessel called the Dawn Treader, sailing for the edge of the world. He drives the crew and his cousins mad with his brattish, selfish ways, and ultimately shirks work duties to nap by a pool in the woods while the ship is restocking at a mysterious island. His nap takes place on a dragon hoard, and ultimately he is enchanted, and his true nature comes out as he is transformed into a dragon. When he sees himself in the pool, he hates what he has become. After some difficulty he convinces the crew and his cousins that he is in fact an enchanted Eustace. Being lonely and afraid as a dragon, he wants to help; he begins to make amends. But they cannot take a full sized dragon on the ship for the rest of the voyage, and he is faced with the doom of his own condition. It is not until the Lion, Aslan, appears and, with his mighty claws, helps Eustace painfully shed his dragon skin, and restore him to being a boy that he gets a second chance.
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. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
To which Lazo adds, “Isn’t it interesting how this undoes the myth of Narcissus? Narcissus looks in the pool and falls in love with himself. But Eustace looks in the pool and falls in hate with himself!”
The result was a fine mime, which Lazo and I performed in tandem—he reciting potions of the text whilst I enacted the journey of this youth from selfish boy, to dragon, to boy humbled and willing to change.
That’s why many people don’t want to bow their knee to the bleeding Christ who died for the sins of the world and was exalted to Lord of creation. To do so, one must accept that this human condition is a doomed one, and we are not good enough in our own hearts to merit any eternal reward. We like to think that we are good enough to get back on the boat and sail happily to the edge of the world and the adventures beyond. When in fact Christianity necessitates that we first shed our dragonly hearts.
Western culture (I can’t speak for Eastern) wants to bathe us in the comforting reassurance that “You’re okay, I’m okay, we’re all okay!” Which is pleasant to the ear, and makes it easier to “coexist.” But it only works in a world where people aren’t actually hurting and hating each other. But in fact, we’re hurting and hating each other all the time, and many of the times we believe we are right, or have the right to do so. This is our dragon skin. And whether deep and seemingly harmless, or heavily-scaly-where-everyone-can-see, we are all in this condition.
The argument continues, “but I’m not that bad!”
But are you really good enough to get into heaven? The Bible says, “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.” Ecclesiastes 7:20
It takes humility, risk, and pain… but we need to submit to the Great Lion, who is also the Lamb, and trust that He will strip us of our dragon skin, and make us into boys and girls who can begin to be better than before.
This is the voyage of Eustace. And this is the voyage we all must take.
For more of C.S. Lazo check out his blog here