Tonight my pastor, lovingly known as "Interim Jim" because that's who he is and what he does, gave a great sermon using imagery from C. S. Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He talked about Eustace Scrubb who arrives in the magical land of Narnia and finds it to be rather annoying and unpleasant. (Go figure!)
After being a total pain in the neck for weeks, Eustace is stranded on an island with the rest of the Dawn Treader crew. He takes a walk on his own and discovers a dragon lair filled with treasure. He falls asleep on the treasure and finds that he has been transformed into a dragon.
Time passes and gradually Eustace finds ways to give and receive kindnesses, all while remaining a dragon. His heart softens. He repents. He wishes to be of service to others. One night while all alone, he meets Aslan, the lion and Christ figure of the Narnia chronicles.
Aslan tells Eustace that to become a boy again he must bathe in a pool, but first he must "undress" himself. Eustace tries in vain to peel off the layers of dragon skin, but he finds that he can't dig deep enough. Finally Aslan undresses Eustace, which is both painful and relieving. Eustace is tossed into the water and emerges a new boy. Reformed. Redeemed. Forgiven.
IJ's sermon dealt with the notion that on our own, we can't dig deep enough to remove all the ugliness from ourselves, no matter how hard we try. We have to turn to God. It may be painful, incredibly painful, but the Lord can peel off that dragon's skin and help us to be new people.
I haven't done IJ's words enough justice, but it was thought provoking and a good reminder for this Ash Wednesday. If we would be changed people, then we need to turn our will over to God. We cannot do this life alone.