We started out our 9th-10th grade camp with a boy named Eustace. Eustace wasn’t actually at camp with us…except that he was. Eustace was a character in the movie, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, that we watched the first night of camp. And Eustace, basically, is every one of us.
Eustace started out as quite a grumpy young fellow. Nothing quite suited him…no situation, no environment, and certainly, no one. He grumbled his way, much like a little monster, through the beginning of the movie until a certain scene when Eustace was transformed. Basically, as CS Lewis described, he became where his outside matched his inside. He was transformed, quite literally, into a dragon.
We can all relate. In fact, that’s exactly what we did. Our first verse of the week was from Romans 12, aptly titled Love in Action. And so we talked about love in action…what it looks like, and what the opposite of it looks like when we’re in our most dragon-like selves. (See attached picture with our list of sins aka dragon qualities).
After being given this list, Melissa had us take some time on our own and actually rate ourselves on each quality…not on the love in action qualities, but on the opposite of those. You can imagine the results. We were all a little dragon-ish.
When Eustace saw his ugliness, he lifted up his voice and wept. Then, a thought occurred to him. “I’m a dragon. I can have power, now.” And then, he had a better thought. For the first time in his life, he actually longed to have friends. He felt lonely. And he wanted to help. That’s the real beginning of Eustace’s transformation. And so, help, he did. Eustace pulled their boat with his teeth and helped fight battles alongside the Pevensie’s and Reepicheep. He experienced courage for the first time in his life.
CS Lewis said, “Before the good news of Christ’s healing can be accepted, people need to know the bad news of our spiritual state.” We all, at times, have the insides of our dragon-ish selves show up on the outside. It is in those moments, that the Good News actually can have the most redemptive power. But, as always, we have a choice. Melissa talked about three choices we have in response to our dragon-selves.
1) We can stay a dragon. We can find a sense of purpose just as we are, much like Eustace did initially.
2) We can keep trying to change on our own. When Eustace became a dragon, he was wearing a boy-sized bracelet. Eventually, the pain of that tiny bracelet squeezing a large dragon leg caught up with him. He was still feeling the purpose of his dragon self, but he felt the pain, too. He began to weep large, hot dragon tears. Then, Aslan showed up. Aslan lead him to a well, told him that the water would soothe his leg, but first he would have to be undressed. Eustace continued to serve as a reminder of the way we all respond. Aslan’s message confused him at first. But, then, he went after it. He started to try to undress himself, which involved peeling layer after layer of his dragon skin off. But the layers just kept coming.
3) We can be Un-Dragoned. The real change came when Aslan stepped in. Aslan responded to Eustace’s trying hard by saying, “You will have to let me undress you.”
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. . . .
Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off — just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt — and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me — I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. . . .
Or, in the words of Ephesians 4:14-16
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Jesus doesn’t ask us to try harder. He just makes us new.
Eustace could have kept on being a dragon. He had gotten pretty good at it, except for the pain in his leg. He could have kept trying harder. But, instead, he let Aslan do his work. He asked for help, and allowed Aslan to really transform him…to change him from the inside out, where all things are being made new.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 15:17
When you are cleansed, you come alive to who you are. That coming alive can only be done through Christ. We can all be un-dragoned by the one who not only knows, but whose love has more power than any dragon ever could.
We ended our week around Aslan’s table, where all travelers are invited. One by one, each camper sat in a chair in front of the group. They asked the group, “Can you remind me what I bring to the table?” Then, three campers and/or counselors spoke words of encouragement as to who we believe God has uniquely created that camper to be. Each 9th-10th grader went home reminded that their place is saved, not just at Hopetown, but at God’s table...where we will all one day come together, fully un-dragoned, to worship and feast with Him.