“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’, which means ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:22,23).”
Yesterday I kept one of my holiday traditions that had seen to fallen by the wayside in recent years. I took my youngest boy to the movies.
We went to see “Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader”. As I sat in the movie, I was happy my son was able to experience this 3D adventure, but personally the genre wasn’t my cup of tea.
However, as the flick drew to a close, I was surprisingly moved. I was impacted by the words of one of the main characters, a mouthy little boy named Eustace, who had been changed into a dragon because of his inner selfishness and covetousness.
Aslan, the heroic lion in the Narnia saga, has come through for Eustace, who he found lying on a beach with a sword in his dragon hide. Eustace is at the end of his strength and abilities.
Aslan magically heals the dragon. He changes Eustace back into the boy he was before being horribly transformed into a beast because of his evil desires.
Eustace has learned a lot as a dragon. In the midst of his trial, he has learned to love and care for those in his company.
Here’s the scene and words that impacted me, courtesy of a website called Narnia Faith.
“Edmund (his cousin) asked Eustace, ‘So what was it like when Aslan changed you back?’ Eustace answered, ‘No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t do it myself. Then he came towards me. It sort of hurt – but it was a good pain, like when you pull a thorn from your foot.’ Later, Eustace says, ‘I think I was a better dragon than I was a boy, really.’
Narnia Faith interprets: “Eustace is an excellent example of the transformation that we each much experience. The only way he could change was to have Aslan remove his dragon skin and emerge as a real boy.”
As fans of the C.S. Lewis series know, Aslan is considered to be the allegorical Jesus character in the story of Narnia. Only Jesus could transform Eustace back to his true, and improved, little boy form.
Once transformed, Eustace actually becomes the hero of the entire story. His actions remove an evil spell seeking to wreak havoc on all of Narnia. A multitude of people, captured and threatened by this evil, are saved.
What evoked an emotional response in me was Eustace’s understanding that he needed Aslan’s help to change. His previous self effort and reliance did him no good. As hard as he tried on his own, he remained the same.
Narnia Faith, a ministry of the youth organization Young Life, has a leader’s guide for this scene which asks the the following questions:
- Have you ever tried to make a change in yourself? How well did it work?
- Why is making significant change so difficult to do?
I am humbled that these same questions, directed at teenagers, need to be directed at and answered by me, a middle aged curmudgeon. This is because, like Eustace, I have tried unsuccessfully to make change in myself since I was 17, and been found wanting a good part of my adult life.
My experience has been a little like the current political jab I have read, adapted I am sure from Dr. Phil, which asks,”How’s all that hope and change workin’ for ya?”. The inference, of course, is that the process attempted by those promising the change is an abject failure.
All my own attempts at serving and following Jesus, and being a godly father, husband and minister of the gospel have left me lower than a duck’s instep. I am extremely discouraged at my inability to pull off holy and righteous living.
For example, I have been unable to completely control the fiery dragon breath of rage. And my tough curmudgeonly hide has not allowed me to fully sense or comprehend the feelings and needs of my wife and kids. The results have been devastating, for me and for them.
The only answer I have to the question concerning why significant change is so difficult is this: it’s painful. It’s like surgery without the anesthesia.
Only suffering seems to bring real change. I suppose that I, like a lot of believers, are unwilling to endure the punishment required to go from a dragon back to a child that will fully trust Jesus.
The only way it seems that we can endure pain and suffering is to have Dr. Jesus with us in the midst of it. Only he can make it be the kind of pain that is healing, as pulling out a knife embedded in our backside would be.
Jacob understood this after he had served his father-in-law in the midst of exposure to the elements, year after year. Here’s what he told Laban when his wives’ father caught up with him after he had had enough and fled:
“I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I bore the loss myself. And you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night. This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times. If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you (Genesis 31;38-42).”
Jacob needed those two decades to sort out his own selfish predilections. Before his trials, he was a devious cheat, wrestling with God. Now Jacob knew God had truly changed him, and was with him, because He had indeed been with him and transformed him out in his field of nightmares all those years.
I see now that if God hadn’t been with me since I put my trust in Jesus Christ way back in high school, I would have been destroyed by evil by now. I may have had a tough time of it, seeking to follow God, especially of late in my own skin.
My hope is that the end result will be a change into a holy, fully trusting and loving, soft hearted child and hero of the faith. But I can’t do it by myself. I need Jesus to be with me.