The Voyage of the Dragon Inside
Editor’s Note: Knowing freedom at a deeper level—catching a vision for abundant life—will free us from the battle with our internal demons. Today’s writer, a former Executive Assistant in the U.S. House of Representatives, follows up a prior journal post on finding insignificance with a piece on finding inspiration in the transformation of Eustace Scrubb.
Today’s writer’s words matter for each of us, because this is the journey each of us must take. There is complete freedom on the other side, and I am confident entire institutions and day-to-day work in politics would change dramatically if we take part in the voyage to transform the dragon inside each of us. This is an adventure, and ours is just beginning. But first, we have to re-wire how we see the world and our place within it: we have to stop seeing the world in terms of the categories and boundaries and hierarchies it creates, and instead see what is real. The Emperor, after all, truly was naked.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, entering into this adventure is part of the good news. And if you’re not, the adventure of coming fully alive and letting go of categories that aren’t working is part of the invitation! Because while Christianity hangs on one man rising from the dead two thousand years ago, what’s staggering is that such incredible news is good news for everything in the universe. Christianity, it turns out, is not a great bore that we succumb to while we get on with life, letting institutions of power race forward. One man dying and rising from the dead means we can let go of needing to feel significant or powerful and instead—because of what he did—find an eternal, abundant freedom that enables us to fix what’s broken—even in institutions like Congress. And not because we are trying to “save America,” but because we finally aren’t.
-Caleb Paxton, Liberatus Founder
Behind them was the sea and the sun, before them the Darkness.
“Do we go into this?” asked Caspian at length.
“Not by my advice,” said Drinian.
“The Captain’s right,” said several sailors.
“I almost think he is,” said Edmund.
Lucy and Eustace didn’t speak but they felt very glad inside at the turn things seemed to be taking. But all at once the clear voice of Reepicheep broke in upon the silence.
“And why not? he said. “Will someone explain to me why not.”
No one was anxious to explain, so Reepicheep continued:
“If I were addressing peasants or slaves,” he said, “I might suppose that this suggestion proceeded from cowardice. But I hope it will never be told in Narnia that a company of noble and royal persons in the flower of their age turned tail because they were afraid of the dark.”
“But what manner of use would it be ploughing through that blackness?” asked Drinian.
“Use?” replied Reepicheep. “Use, Captain? If by use you mean filling our bellies or our purses, I confess it will be no use at all. So far as I know we did not set sail to look for things useful but to seek honour and adventures. And here is as great an adventure as ever I heard of, and here, if we turn back, no little impeachment of all our honours.”
-C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (pp. 151-152).
THE VOYAGE OF THE DRAGON INSIDE
In the C.S. Lewis’s story, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace is a complete know-it-all. We all know the type: someone who always has an opinion and thinks that he or she knows best. When the three children get swept away into Narnia, Eustace, who is Lucy’s and Edmund’s cousin and the only one who hasn’t been to Narnia before, loses his mind as he realizes he knows nothing of the land and is completely out of control in his current situation. He’s on this ship in the middle of an unknown-to-him world and now there is a King who rules over him. Even though he is flat out of control, he continues to fight for it, annoying and frustrating everyone aboard the ship.
About half way along their sea voyage the crew lands at Dragon Island. Eustace, being the brat that he is, runs off from the others and finds a dragon's lair filled with treasures. He wakes up from his slumber only to find out that the magic within the dragon's cave has turned him into a dragon. Now Eustace is not only in a world far from his, in unknown lands and filled with magic—he’s a dragon. I can’t imagine being in his shoes. As if he didn’t already feel out of control, being turned into a dragon by magic you don’t understand must be terrifying! Eustace finds the others and tries to explain what has happened to him and while the others understand, no one knows how to help—he is stuck. Fear, shame, and loss of control overtake him and he grieves. Eustace finally comes to grips with the fact that he is out of control.
Reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I found myself relating to Eustace during his dragon phase more than I wanted to admit. See, I recently moved across the country and as I sit here as far away from DC as I can imagine, I have a lot of questions. Why am I here? Am I sure this was the right choice? I’ve been searching for some sense of control and understanding. I feel like Eustace, thrust out of my security and into a world I don’t know. When Eustace is still a dragon and broken, Aslan comes to rescue him. He comes to peel away the layers of dragon scales. (p. 90).
“Then the lion said–but I don’t know if it spoke—‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.”
If we’re lucky we often wait until we’re desperate to surrender control. If we’re unlucky we never get there. In his desperation Eustace let a lion undress him of his scales.
“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.”
I love this imagery because it’s so reflective of the bittersweet pain we go through as we begin to surrender control. Loss of dreams, aspirations, relationships, or desires tend to follow an internal surrender. We often don’t know when the pain will end or what will happen next, but like Eustace we need to trust. Eustace put all of his trust in Aslan. He had to trust that Aslan knew what he was doing and wasn’t going to let a claw slip and slice him. In the same way, as a follower of Jesus, I need to trust God. To lay flat on my back and allow him to remove my scales, to trust that he knows what he is doing in my life, even if that means setting aside dreams, relationships or aspirations. The sense of security I had in my plans and dreams has vanished and I’ve struggled with that loss.
This is the same for a lot happening in DC right now. Culturally, it seems that everyone in that city is so driven, smart and talented that everyone has a 5 year plan, a 10 year plan, and so on. Seemingly having so much control makes you feel invincible. But, take a look outside of your window: the world is not secure and neither is your plan. Whether it be our nation’s current presidential race and the distressing political divide in the country, the world’s refugee crisis, water scarcity issues, or terrorist attacks and shootings that seem to be the new norm, the list is endless. Nothing is secure and this shouldn’t drive us to isolation or fear, but as I read the story of the Dawn Treader I was reminded of how my need to control only leads me to bigger troubles and deeper pains—it turned Eustace into a dragon. We may live in an insecure world but let this fairy tale remind you of the freedom that comes with surrendering control.
WEEKLY ACTION ITEM:
This week, digest a little bit less of the post-debate, presidential race spin and instead read your favorite book in The Chronicles of Narnia. What insight stands out to you as an adult? How does it lead you to find inner peace and the strength to elevate your work culture, political communication, or personal well-being?
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