This post was inspired my friend, Lizzie the Liberator, a bosom friend if ever there was one. She’d be quick to remind us that: “Liberation does not happen in a day.” But it does happen.
I love story. I think words are magical. The Christian creation story says that God spoke the world into being. It’s easy for me to believe that because I’ve seen with my own eyes the power of words to create and destroy. The Bible even says that we have the power of life and death in our tongue- it’s not talking about mumbo-jumbo incantations. It’s talking about our every day conversations.
Do I lift other people up? Do I encourage them? Do I curse them to remain trapped in their past because I won’t offer them the grace to move on? There’s a lot of power in our words; we forget what mighty warriors we are because we’ve been fooled into thinking that weapons only look like guns and knives and spears. But no…..we’re all black belt level talkers whether we realize it or not.
Sometimes the person who needs our verbalized magic the most is….ourselves. What blessing or curse do I speak over myself every day? What life am I pouring into me? What am I saying that holds me back? Am I quick to forgive me? Or am I quicker to condemn me?
Remember last week’s post from the front seat of the Struggle Bus? Am I treating me like someone I love enough to help? Am I talking to me like someone I love enough to help? Are you?
Lizzie the Liberator brought all of this to the surface by reminding me of the magic that one Clive Staples Lewis wove with his words in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”. (Honestly, if you think the Narnia stories are just for kids, you need to read them again.)
One of the main characters of this novel is a child named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he’s such an unlikeable child that Lewis goes on to describe his moniker as something “he almost deserved”. We could stop and have a good chat about names and identity right here: what has someone else called you that you believe you “almost deserve”? Yikes.
But Lizzie would have me press on.
Eustace is arrogant, greedy and selfish. He’s a person who is hard to like. In the story, he ends up wandering off by himself on an unexplored island and finding a dragon’s treasure. Since he’s a greedy boy, he grabbed up the treasure including a bracelet that is cursed. The bracelet transforms him into a dragon. The bracelet causes him constant pain and is impossible to remove. Being a dragon emphasizes the loneliness and misery he also felt as a boy. There seems to be no hope for him.
Eventually, Eustace the Dragon has a meeting with Aslan the Lion (who Lewis is always quick to remind us is good but not tame). Aslan comes to him in the night and leads him away from camp to a magical well in the mountains. Eustace knows that if he can get into the well, it would make the pain from the bracelet go away. He starts toward the well, but Aslan tells him that he must remove his dragon skin first. And so he does by scratching vigorously at it. Unfortunately, as he heads towards the well, the dragon skin reappears on his body. He scratches it away again, and it appears yet again. He removes it a third time, and again it reappears.
Finally, Aslan offers to help. Eustace agrees even as he admits that he is terrified of the sharp lion’s claws. He describes the first scratch as being “so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart”. He says that the removal hurt worse than anything he had ever felt, and that the only thing that made it bearable was the pleasure of being free of the dragon’s skin. With Aslan’s help, Eustace became a boy again – and a much nicer and better boy than he had been before.
I think having an identity crisis (still a terrible term) is a bit like looking down and realizing you’ve become a dragon. And I would go a step further and say that our dragon suits aren’t built by a cursed bracelet but by words….actual curses…our own words and others’ as well. When we believe something about us that just isn’t true, we become the dragon, and it is so, so hard to shed that skin and step into the refreshing water of the well.
When Lizzie and I talk – which is frequently – we discuss all the circumstances and situations that we find ourselves in, and they can be distressing and heart-breaking: sickness, loss, disappointment….but nothing defeats us except that darn dragon. Turns out, we (and that includes you, my dear Struggle Bus Passengers) are amazingly, fantabulously resilient. We can walk through freaking fire and still press on. But the dragon…..the dragon will undo us every time. The dragon will break us.
The worst part is that we can’t usually see our own dragon; someone else has to point it out. I need Lizzie to tell me that I’ve become a claw-footed changling. Lizzie needs me to point out her diamond hard scales. We get so used to the dragon that it is invisible to us, but we can learn to see it if we try.
Phrases like: I’m a failure. I’m not worthy. I’m not enough. I’m too much. No one will ever truly love me. If they really knew me, they’d reject me. I’m too fat, I’m too thin, I’m too dumb…..all are signs of the dragon. The dragon is nothing more than a lie that we cannot shed alone.
In Lewis’ works, Aslan is representative of God. Eustace could not shed his dragon skin without Aslan’s help, and we’re the same – but in our world, Aslan has a little help. You see those of us who claim to follow Jesus? We’re also supposed to act like him. We’re supposed to free the captive and bind up the broken-hearted. We’re supposed to help one another shed our dragon skin once and for all. We’re supposed to see the lie, call it by name and vanquish it. That’s the upside.
The downside is that shedding that dragon skin hurts like hell. Yes, it is a relief to be freed from the lie and the ill-fitting skin that’s surrounded us, but it still hurts coming off. Some of us have believed our dragon identity for so long that we don’t know how to exist as ourselves anymore. Who are we if we are not the lie?
I can tell you: You are not a failure. You are worthy. You are exactly who is needed right here and right now. You are enough. You are not to blame. You were created for exactly a time like this. You are so loved.
It’s time to embrace the pain and the relief, my dear ones. It’s time to run with the good but not tame Lion. It’s time to shed our dragon skins to become something far more powerful: ourselves. It’s time to use our magical, powerful beyond reason words to heal ourselves so that we can change and heal our world. It all starts here: defeating the dragon.
Fight with me, friends. We’re worth it.