A couple of weeks ago, my family went to a local festival for the day. Nathan enjoyed riding the rides and playing the games and looking in the shops... but one thing that he really wanted to do was get his face painted.
So we found a face-painting booth and let him pick a design. We were a bit apprehensive when he selected a full-on dragon face, but we figured if it was what he wanted we'd let him do it.
I'm glad we got this picture of it, because as soon as Nathan saw the finished product, he started flipping out a little and wanted to clean it off... because, as he said, "I just want to look like ME!"
And though the grown-up in me felt ever-so-slightly miffed that we had just spent $7 to have his face painted only to immediately clean it off... the more honest part of me could understand where Nathan was coming from. It's kind of scary to look in a mirror and see a monster where your face used to be. Though we know rationally that it's still us underneath all that paint, there is that longing in all of us to be seen for who we really are. We just want to look like us, you know?
In the book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, author C.S. Lewis tells a terrible, beautiful story of a whiny, unhappy boy named Eustace who turns into a dragon. In the book, C.S. Lewis writes about the moment that Eustace realizes what had happened to him:
"...as he bent toward the water, he thought for a second that yet another dragon was staring up at him out of the pool. But in an instant he realized the truth. The dragon face in the pool was his own reflection. There was no doubt of it. It moved as he moved: it opened and shut its mouth as he opened and shut his.
He had turned into a dragon while he was asleep. Sleeping on a dragon's hoard with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart, he had become a dragon himself."
At first, Eustace is happy to be a dragon, because he realizes that he is so terrible that he can get revenge on those who he felt had wronged him. But soon, as Lewis writes again, he changes his mind.
"He wanted to be friends. He wanted to get back among humans and talk and laugh and share things. He realized that he was a monster cut off from the whole human race. An appalling loneliness came over him.
...When he thought of this the poor dragon that had been Eustace lifted up its voice and wept. A powerful dragon crying its eyes out under the moon in a deserted valley is a sight and a sound hardly to be imagined."
I think there are times in all our lives when we take a good, hard look at ourselves and realize that we have been acting "dragonish" again. When we've let bitterness, jealousy, greed, anger, or pride rear up in us and take over the person we really are... the person God is calling us to be. I am so thankful that God doesn't leave us there, though the cleaning process can be painful.
For poor Eustace, it involved Aslan slicing through layer after layer of dragon skin. It was slow, and painful, and Eustace thought more than once that he wished he could just die and be done with it. But when Aslan had finished the work, Eustace was human once again. He could look in there mirror and say, "I look like ME!"
And he had learned something through the process.
When God brings things to mind that He wants to change in us, the cleaning process is not easy or fun. It can be downright painful. But if we allow him to slice through our dragon skin to reveal our true self... we can look in the mirror and see reflected back to us a vision of who God wants us to be. Our true selves staring back at us.
Oh Lord, I just want to look like ME! Thank you for helping me to shed this dragon skin of sin. Help me never forget what I've learned through the process.
...And thank you that it only took wet-wipes to clean up my little dragon!