Isn’t is funny how life just slips by and you kind of miss it?
It’s almost November. Meaning I’ll be home for Christmas break in a mere seven weeks. Wow.
To be honest, this semester’s been a tough one.
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE college and life in Knoxville. I’ve made sweet new friendships and loved going deeper in relationships with wonderful people I met last year. The Lord has completely transformed my life since I set foot onto this campus a year and a half ago and this semester has been one full of laughter and adventure and learning (I am here to get an education after all) and amazing memories, but even in the midst of all this joy it’s been quite painful.
But it’s a sweet kind of pain. Not depression or homesickness or anything like that. It’s a growing pain, a changing pain. I’m growing, I’m changing. And with change comes a stripping away of things that once were.
One of my favorite stories of all time is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis. Goodness, that man is a genius and there is never a time that I read his books that I don’t cry. I even bawled like a baby in the movie version of Dawn Treader. Like I was literally weeping in the middle of a crowded, family-filled theater. Awesome. Maybe it’s because I’m a sap but, to be truthful, I think it’s because the character of Aslan (if you don’t know who Aslan is seriously stop reading this post right now and at least go watch the movie if you aren’t up for reading the book) is the sweetest image of Jesus I’ve ever experienced. I love Aslan because he shows me what Jesus is like. So full of power yet so full of love. His eyes are burning with love. And all I can do is weep.
I promise the story will make sense in a few minutes, but I’m going to take a detour for a moment, so bear with me.
I was recently talking with a friend about what this blogging experience has been like for me and what a sweet blessing it has been to witness the kind and encouraging reactions of so many people I love. You wouldn’t believe the random phone calls, text messages and conversations I’ve had just because I decided to be brave and post my blog on facebook. It’s crazy.
But the thing I’ve learned most so far is that we’re all growing. We’re all hurting. We’re all dealing with things we shouldn’t have to deal with or that seem to hard to bear. We get frustrated, sad, discouraged and all the while there are moments when our hearts feel like they’re going to burst out of our chest with love for this wild life. We’re all trying to fight our way through and soak in life whether we’re sixteen or sixty-two. And we can all have room to grow.
And that’s something I’m really trying to learn now. I’m always going to be growing. I’m never going to reach perfection or accomplish everything only to sit around and think “what next?” And the craziest thing is, I’m never going to fully get my grasp on God. I’m never going to know every facet of his character or finally have him figured out. There’s always going to be more that I will learn about him. Like a long love story, just when I think I know him, he’ll show me something new and sweep me off my feet once again.
And the sweet thing is he’s never going to be through with me either.
Wow, just take a second and let that sink in.
The God of the universe is never going to grow bored or tired of me. He is never going to “move onto the next thing” just because I’m moving slowly or I’m not as shiny and perfect as the next person seems. And what a sweet truth that he never wants to leave me. He’s never willing to give up on me, even in the midst of my sin and my failures.
So this is where Mr. Lewis’ story comes full circle: The reason I love Dawn Treader so much is because of one scene in particular. In the story, the Pevensies’ rotten cousin Eustace (I’m sorry for those of you who have no idea who these characters are. Please to yourself a favor and look them up. You really won’t regret it!) gets dragged into the land of Narnia, gets into trouble and turns into a dragon. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but hang with me for just a minute. Eustace ultimately finds himself on an island where he encounters Aslan, the ruler of Narnia (also He’s a lion) who changes him back into a boy. Doesn’t sound like a big deal but I’m going to let Eustace’s words show you why this story rocks my world. Here we go (taken from Chapter Seven in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis- text found on readanybooks.net because I really didn’t want to type this out). It’s kind of long but keep reading- it’s so worth it:
“Well, anyway, I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly towards me. And one queer thing was that there was no moon last night, but there was moonlight where the lion was. So it came nearer and nearer. I was terribly afraid of it. You may think that, being a dragon, I could have knocked any lion out easily enough. But it wasn’t that kind of fear. I wasn’t afraid of it eating me, I was just afraid of it – if you can understand. Well, it came close up to me and looked straight into my eyes. And I shut my eyes tight. But that wasn’t any good because it told me to follow it.”
“You mean it spoke?”
“I don’t know. Now that you mention it, I don’t think it did. But it told me all the same. And I knew I’d have to do what it told me, so I got up and followed it. And it led me a long way into the mountains. And there was always this moonlight over and round the lion wherever we went. So at last we came to the top of a mountain I’d never seen before and on the top of this mountain there was a garden – trees and fruit and everything. In the middle of it there was a well.
“I knew it was a well because you could see the water bubbling up from the bottom of it: but it was a lot bigger than most wells – like a very big, round bath with marble steps going down into it. The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don’t know if he said any words out loud or not.
“I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that’s what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.
“But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that’s all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I’ll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.
“Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.
“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.
“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. You know – if you’ve ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.
“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. You’d think me simply phoney if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they’ve no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian’s, but I was so glad to see them.
“After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me – “
“Dressed you. With his paws?”
“Well, I don’t exactly remember that bit. But he did somehow or other: in new clothes – the same I’ve got on now, as a matter of fact. And then suddenly I was back here. Which is what makes me think it must have been a dream.”
Ahh I love it. Do you see it? Do you see Him?
I love this passage because I think it’s so easy for me to try to fix my sin myself, to peel off my scales and layers with my own hands, only to find they’ve just grown right back. I try to fix my sin or I try to stop myself from sinning only to fall into another sin. My sin manifests itself again and again. A continuous cycle. Because I’m trying to take care of it in my own strength. I’m trying to play God.
And because I’m silly and human, I, like Eustace, try and try again to peel my scales off on my own. Because I think maybe this time it’ll work. Maybe this time I’ll be able to change my habits, do the right thing, not screw up again. And I try and I try and guess what?
It doesn’t work.
A lot of times I want to fix my sin by getting advice from friends or starting a new eating plan or lose myself in advice from different blogs. But the only thing that is ever going to set me free is allowing Jesus to undress me, to take off my sinful skin and clothe me with a fresh flesh of righteousness.
And the other thing I love about this passage is that it’s painful. Getting free is never easy. Because it requires a death. We’re dying to what once was. We’re dying to who we used to be.
So often I’m too scared or too prideful to allow Jesus to work on me. I don’t fall on my face in desperation like my heart is screaming that I should. Instead, I sit in my chair at church or put on a smile around my friends and pretend I have it all together.
So often, but not today.
Here’s the thing, allowing Jesus to strip away my sin and my doubt is painful. Really, freaking painful. And scary. And it would be so much easier for me to just quench the voice of the Holy Spirit inside me who is saying that there’s something more. More freedom and joy to be had. More life.
It’d be easier to keep making excuses on why I never change, why I’m too busy to share the Gospel or invest my life in discipleship.
But are the excuses worth it? Is being stagnant and refusing the goodness of God really worth it?
HECK NO IT ISN’T.
Heck to the freaking no.
This morning at church when my pastor asked if anyone needed to come to the front and kneel before God and confess that they haven’t been trusting him, that they haven’t laid it all down, guess what I did?
I went and got on my knees.
In front of a bunch of people.
And I really, really didn’t want to.
So much so that I just sat there on the floor and cried.
And not a cute or pretty cry either. Just a cry of a broken girl confessing failure and a lack of trust to her Savior.
Because going to the front showed everyone in that room that I wasn’t perfect. That I wasn’t “where I should be”.
That I wasn’t enough. I couldn’t fix myself.
But that’s the thing about Jesus. That even though my pride could keep me glued to my seat, His grace for me and my thirst for freedom dragged my feet across the floor and brought me to my knees.
And I tell you these things, heck, I even write this blog because I want to get free. And I want YOU to get free. No, we’re never going to be perfect and even when we think we’ve finally got it all together, hard things are still going to happen. We’re still going to fight sin, whatever sin it may be, for the rest of our lives because we are broken and we live in a broken world.
But I don’t want to linger here in the way things are now. I want more for my life. And I really want more for you.
More freedom, more joy, more life.
We have the opportunity to say yes to freedom and life even in the midst of sin that leads to death. Jesus loved us so much that he heaped all our sin on himself so that we might get a taste of freedom and be welcomed into His Presence.
But getting this freedom and this real life comes with a price. It requires His peeling away, His fixing, not ours. It requires us being bold and confessing sin and allowing Jesus to give us a new skin, a new revelation of who He is.
And the pain is so worth it. Because as we get free, it invites others to get free. As we step boldly closer to Jesus, even if just one person took a tiny baby step towards him, the angels in heaven would rejoice. Not because of what we did, but because someone caught a glimpse of who He is.
So even in the uncomfortable and painful moments that break my pride and bring me to tears, I still come.
I still let Jesus peel away my layers again and again.
Because I am desperate for more of His Presence.
More life, more joy, more freedom.
More of who He is.
Until I am made new.
Until I look like Him.