Fairytales for the Soul
In chapter six of C.S. Lewis' book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, we find the characters on a seemingly inhospitable island. Eustace (Lucy and Edmunds cousin) decides to venture out on his own, gets sort of lost, finds himself in the company of a dying dragon, sees the dragon die of old age, gets caught in a storm, and eventually falls asleep amidst the spoils of the dragon's immeasurable wealth with selfish, "dragony" thoughts filling his head.
Eustace is one of those characters that you learn to abhor from the start of the book. He is everything that you hate in an annoying child. He complains, he has no imagination, he hates the other good characters in the story, and he is frustratingly self righteous. The reader learns to sympathize with Lucy and Edmund and abhors Eustace. Essentially if you were to personify yourself as a character in the book you would never choose Eustace.
Towards the end of the chapter we find Eustace awakening in the dragon's lair to find out that he himself has turned into a dragon, his scaly dragon skin and long claws frighten and disgust him; he hates the sight of himself. He is painfully aware of the fact that he was quite rotten before and he mourns his past behavior and also his future self that seems to be irreversible. After about six days of misery, Eustace the dragon has a dream. In his dream he follows a lion to a well where the lion tells him to undress. Confused by this directive he decides that maybe it means he should take off his scales. He scrapes and scratches and realizes that his dragon skin comes off! The skin falls to the ground and just when he thinks he is finished he looks down and realizes it has grown back. So two or three times more he attempts to remove his skin....but with the same result, it grows back.
Finally the Lion says that Eustace must allow Him to remove his dragon skin. The pain from the Lion's claws was sharp but the pleasure of knowing that his dragon skin was coming off made it bearable.
Last week it became clear to me that even though I desired to be like the other characters in the book, I am actually so much more like Eustace. My selfish, dragony thoughts cloud my mind and the armor (or dragon skin) builds up. It protects me and gives me power. I am untouchable and not able to be wounded.
Realizing this, I prayed that God would wound me, that I would be able to let go of my armor and my scaly skin to be able to be vulnerable and open. I saw that I didn't want to be untouchable and if I expect people to be open and honest towards me, I need to make myself known in that way. But my past experiences and upbringing taught me to put on the armor to protect myself, because when you are vulnerable you are just that, vulnerable and open to pain.
That is the thing we often miss when we who are the proponents of authenticity and vulnerability blast the masses with the gospel of openness... When you are vulnerable the opportunity to grow in relationships is fostered but the opportunity for them to cause you pain is also increased.
I do not know how to convince you that it is better to be vulnerable. It sounds to counter to what our society tells us. I can say that I do not like my scaly dragon skin and my impenetrable armor. I don't like my lonely tower where I cannot be injured by your words or actions. Because if I am in my tower it also means that I am removed from my community and family. I am learning that the pain of the scales coming off is worth the pleasure of the new skin.
My summary of C.S. Lewis' work is a poor outline of his splendid writing. Read for yourself about Eustace's adventure and maybe you will see that you are in need of some peeling.