“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps 139: 23-24)
In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis describes a young boy, Eustace, who had turned into a dragon. The only way to find the boy again was to descale the dragon. At first, the boy tore layers and layers of dry, scratchy scales off his dragon body. Yet with each veneer, a new layer appeared until Aslan, the Lion representing God, came to Eustace. With his claws, the good lion did the painful work.
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.”
Our heart is protected by layers and layers of thick, scratchy scales. The scales protect us from hurt and loneliness and an aching feeling of inadequacy. Like Eustace, we need to be descaled to find the boy again. Boys and girls, at their best, exude unabashed joy. The scales have not built up yet. How telling it is that in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve are described as “naked and not ashamed.”
Naked, without scales, is so terribly vulnerable. And so, we put up walls to keep from exposing our real self. There are times when I come home from a full day of meetings, tired and spent, when I put on my “business voice.” This protects me from showing my self-perceived weakness, even to Weezie. I think I always have to be strong – another layer of scales.
Somewhere, we need to risk being descaled. Marriages suffer because, in the speed and stress of everyday life, there is never a place to be naked and unashamed with each other. Friendships linger on the surface, never taking the chance to speak of dreams and hopes and fears. Whoever we are, whatever our circumstance, we desperately need to slow down, to pause, to look the other in the eye, and take off the scales. Like Eustace, the tear may feel so deep that it goes right to the heart, but if we’re honest, isn’t that where we want to live?
It took three tries for Eustace, and still he could not get beneath the many layers of scales. Aslan did the deep work. So it will be with us. Descaling is not a one-time affair. David prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps 139: 23-24) Beneath the dragon scales lies a boy and a girl and joy and love.
Find that place where you can take off the scales. It will be a quiet place, a slow place. Even if the scales come off one at a time, begin to be real, with yourself, with someone you love, with God. Though the work is painful, the years will reveal that the very best in life comes when the scales have been cast aside.