Saturday, January 8, 2011

shedding the scales

Recently i watched 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader' at the movies.  i had read & re-read all the books from C.S. Lewis' 'Chronicles of Narnia' several times growing up & was especially captivated by the story of the Dawn Treader.  Maybe the reason i enjoyed it so much was that it was a story i could identify with. All the main characters at one time or another had to face & conquer their demons.  i could especially relate to the challenges Eustace had to face as the enchanted dragon. 
Last year i had my own personal challenges to face. In fact for many months i could have been that dragon. Living a wonderful life with a loving husband & two great kids but unable to freely enjoy living in the fullness of that because i felt trapped. Trapped, not by my circumstances, but by my identity - by who i knew myself to be. Little 'niggles' that i had tried to manage or ignore for a long time grew & grew, until they were big issues that i could no longer push away or patch up.  These interfered with & hindered my most precious relationships - with my husband & my children. i decided to seek counselling.
More times than i can remember, i regretted that decision.  i had naively thought that i could sort these 'issues' out quickly, without any hard work, without having to engage. But in embarking on that journey i had unleashed a dragon. The dragon being me.  During that time, i know i was incredibly hard to live with.  i still marvel at my husband's patience & my childrens' willingness to forgive.  Throughout that process i felt vulnerable & exposed.  The more honest i became & the more i was willing to face up to, the more difficult things became.  Much of the time i felt like i was suffocating, like i was constantly in a struggle.  My mind was in confusion & i felt like i was in a battle.  i would like to say that i fought couragiously. i didn't.  Most of the time i just thrashed around wildly, lashing out blindly at anyone close by. Like i said, i am blessed with a very forgiving family.
In the movie, there is a short but pivotal scene in which the dragon is sitting on the beach, exhausted & scratching at his scales, attempting to shed his skin.  In the end it is Aslan who must remove the scales & in so doing reveals the new Eustace.  In the book, C.S. Lewis elaborates on this process & talks about the pain involved.  This scene had a deep impact on me.  During my time in counselling, i was able to identify significant past experiences that had contributed to the way i saw myself & life, and my resulting thoughts, beliefs & behaviours.  This knowledge was helpful to some extent.  But so what? i didn't know what to do with that knowledge.  I couldn't feel what i was supposed to feel, i didn't know how to deal with emotions. I couldn't move forward.  Like the dragon i had some limited success at removing some scales but there was no breakthrough, no transformation. I was exhausted, i couldn't fight any more & so finally i surrendered.  Not to my situation, past experiences or to fate.  i surrendered to Someone.
In the movie, there are moments that Lucy craves, moments she longs for; the times when Aslan appears - usually only briefly, when everything becomes still; time is suspended, & everything is in his control.  I empathize with Lucy's longing. There were so many times last year when i longed for God to appear. i know it sounds crazy but i just wanted to know His tangible presence.  i wanted Him to be there with me, physically. i thought, if He just came down, just for a moment, if i could touch Him, if He could tell me in an audible voice that He loved me . . .then everything would be o.k., everything would fall into place & i wouldn't have to struggle anymore. 
Shortly before all of this struggling began i had a dream. i was walking along a road & to my right the road dropped away sharply.  i was in total darkness & was moving forward very slowly & cautiously. Suddenly i stumbled & in an attempt to regain some balance i threw my hands out.  In that moment my right hand connected with something.  i realized it was resting on the side of some great beast & this beast was between me & the edge of the road.  It was moving forward slowly & steadily, & with my hand still resting there i moved forward too, still unable to see anything.  The feelings i experienced are difficult to explain. I could hardly breathe, terrified because  i knew this beast was powerful & dangerous and yet . . .  completely protected because of its presence.  We continued to move forward silently until i reached safety & then it was gone. When i woke up i wondered if this might be something like being in God's presence. 
Even though i knew it was only a dream, throughout the difficult times that dream would give me hope.  And so finally i surrendered.  i surrendered to God.  & admitted to Him that it wasn't something i could sort out or control. i needed Him. And so He tore at the scales. it was uncomfortable. it hurt.
but then He spoke to me, not in a loud roar. More like a whisper. Through His Word & a picture, & a dream . . . and then there was a gentle realization that i wasn't the dragon anymore. i was me. but i was a new me.

2 Corinthians 5 v 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

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