I really like dragons. This despite the fact that they don't have the greatest track record in some mythologies, and are often portrayed as greedy and ruthless. I suppose I prefer narratives that show them as wise and powerful. But I digress. One of my favorite stories involving a dragon is found in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis.
For those of you who haven't read the book, the main thing you need to know is that there is a boy named Eustace Scrubb, and through the first portion of the book he's a selfish brat. Then Eustace comes across a dragon hoard and puts a gold bracelet he finds there on his arm before falling asleep, happy with the treasure he has found. He wakes the next day to find that the bracelet has become painfully tight, and later learns that he has turned into a dragon.
Eustace's physical pain is combined with the emotional pain of being cut off from his fellow travelers. He is no longer able to communicate with them, or easily travel with them across the sea. Though this is striking imagery on its own, the part of this story that especially resonates with me is how he finds restoration; what turns him from a dragon back into a boy. Eustace meets Aslan, the great lion and king of Narnia, who invites him to undress (which Eustace realizes means shedding his dragon skin) and step into a pool of pure water. After trying several times to tear the skin off himself without success, Eustace learns that Aslan is the only one who can tear deep enough to really get it off,
"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”
This story is an illustration of something that is all too real in my life. Apart from Christ I lived in selfishness and sin. I allowed myself to get covered in the dragon skin, until it became painful and isolating. Then I tried to fix it myself; tried to be a better person, tried to obey God, tried to tear off the skin. I was never able to tear deep enough. The beauty of this story and of my story is that it's not about being able to tear deep enough, it's that God does it for us. He's removed the dragon skin, and though I still have relapses in this life, He continues to work in me to remove every last trace. Having to face my sin and walk through the process of having it torn away is painful, but so relieving.
I hope that you can see yourself in the story of Eustace as well. The process of removing the dragon skin won't be fully realized in this life, but in Christ we have hope that one day it will.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” -Philippians 1:6