“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” He is also a boy Jesus can transform into a mediator of grace to undeserving sinners.
Perhaps you recognize the first line from C.S. Lewis’ Narnia tale, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. In this third volume of the Narnia Chronicles, young Eustace, a tiresome boy, turns temporarily into a dragon. The narrator explains, “Sleeping on a dragon’s hoard with greedy dragonish thoughts in his heart, he had become a dragon himself.” (p. 75) So Eustace embodies the biblical teaching that we become like what we worship. The Psalmist describes idols and states, “Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them.” (Psalm 115:8)
Lewis’ Narnia tales preach the Gospel in a barely indirect way, and the Christ-figure in Narnia, Aslan the Lion, redeems Eustace in a way that sends a message to us all. As the Psalmist confesses, it was good for Eustace that he was afflicted. (Psalm 119:71) Upon waking up as a dragon, Eustace finds himself longing as never before for friends. While still in his dragonish form, he begins to seek and find reconciliation. And then, by the grace of Aslan, he receives the gift of “un-dragoning.”
Aslan comes to Eustace in a vision-like encounter. The Lion leads the dragon-boy to a garden that has at its center a well of water. Aslan tells Eustace, he must undress before entering the water, so Eustace peels off his dragon skin only to find that it grows right back. This happens three times (a biblical form of completeness) until Aslan tells Eustace, “You will have to let me undress you.” (p. 90) With his claws, Aslan then tears off Eustace’s dragon skin in a way that feels painful and joyful at the same time. Then Aslan immerses Eustace in the water, and Eustace emerges as a boy again. When Eustace rises from the water, he is not fully transformed. “He had relapses. But…the cure had begun.” (p. 93) In terms we can adapt from the Apostle Paul, having been baptized, Eustace rises and he begins to “walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)
On Sunday at Willowdale, we will listen for our Lord’s good news by listening to Romans 6:1-14 together. In that passage, Paul proclaims that we die and rise with Christ in baptism, so that “we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4) As we consider ourselves “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 6:11) we experience an abounding grace that begins to transform us. Like Eustace—and like Paul and all Christians; see Romans 7—we too have relapses, but the cure has begun. Sin no longer has dominion over us; sin can no longer use even God’s word to kill us. (Romans 6:14 and 7:13) Instead, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) By grace, we become those “who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:4)
God’s transforming grace can feel like death and new life at the same time; it can lead us through pain and joy at the same time. But the Gospel lets us know that the death and pain will come to an end, while the new life and joy will abound forever. And I hope that news can be a way for our Lord to turn your mourning into dancing today. I hope the story of Eustace can mediate our Lord’s truth that: “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30) And that joy expands forever.