Ok, LDS friends, you might ask me, “Todd, how in the world do you make such a connection today.”
Well, sit down by the cozy, crackling fire, enjoy some hot cocoa with me, and let me try to connect some dots in some of my recent reading.
1. I am reading to my family, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C. S. Lewis. On Sunday evening, we read through the part of Eustace being transformed from a beastly dragon back into a boy. Eustace is talking to Edmund:
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 of 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 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. 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. . . .
2. Yesterday morning, I read Ezekiel 36 (in our church family Bible reading schedule). Notice these words:
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
I thought of Eustace. And I thought of what happened to myself.
3. Last night, I read a little bit more from The Institutes of Christian Religion by John Calvin (edited by Tony Lane and Hilary Osborne). This book is included in our church family November recommendations. Opening up to my bookmarked section on page 98, I began my reading again. And is not this ironic? The theme?
It would be right to think about the remedy divine grace provides for correction and curing natural corruption. The Lord, in coming to our aid, gives us what we need and thereby reveals our helplessness. When the apostle says to the Philippians, ‘being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus’ (Phil. 1:6), there can be no doubt that by the good work begun he means the first step of conversion in the will. So God begins the good work in us by arousing in our hearts a desire, love and study of righteousness. More accurately, he turns, trains and guides our hearts to righteousness. He completes the good work by strengthening us to keep going to the end. In case anyone tries to quibble that the good work done by the Lord consists in helping the will (which is weak in itself), the Spirit states what the will is able to do on its own. ‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws’ (Ezek. 36:26-7). How can it be said that the weakness of the human will is merely assisted effectively to choose good things, when in fact it must be totally transformed and renewed? If there is any softness in a stone or you can make it malleable, then you could say that the human heart could be reshaped correctly, so long as the imperfect is assisted by divine grace. If the Spirit intends to show that no good thing can ever be drawn from our hearts, unless they are made new, we must not try to share with him what he claims for himself alone.
So going back to Narnia, who gets the glory for transformation, Eustace or Aslan?
Have you been changed? And are you on such a glorious adventure this Christmas season?