Peeling Back the Layers

To be completely honest, utter boredom drove me to write this post, since I haven’t been “feeling” it (writing) lately. I did, however, finally have a breakthrough, which I will get to in a second. But first, let me qualify “boredom” here for a quick diversion. This qualifies good sort of boredom since it’s forcing me to confront thoughts and heart issues, ergo driving me to work them out on “paper” for your (hopefully) edification and my sanity. On the flip side I resent this boredom because I tried to concoct a million ways to avoid it by attempting to make plans; all of which fell through faster than it takes to slip on ice.

I’m sitting here in our cozy (as in intimate, not warm; hence the floor heater next to the love seat) living room. My back is mostly towards the couch as I lean into the arm rest and sit with my legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles in front of me. My feet love my sheep fur booties. Even though I’m not facing the tree, I can still see its lights and form reflecting in my laptop screen. In my peripheral, to my left, I can see the tree lights reflected in the living room windows as well. I really should be facing the Christmas tree, shouldn’t I? You might be thinking it defeats the purpose of sitting out in the front room. Yeah, I thought so too, but then my analytical brain that never shuts up, spiked. I thought how symbolic that I’m seeing “Christmas” reflected but yet I’m not actually directly facing it. I keep trying to get the “Christmas spirit” – I don’t think it’s occurred to my mind that it’s December AND less than 12 days until Christmas. Yikes! At least I have all the family Christmas gifts taken care of. The reflection of the tree in my laptop also caused me to once again reflect back on how different last Christmas was and how different this Christmas seems to be, compared to what I thought it was going to be. Are you tracking with me?

OK, “the breakthrough” as I mentioned in my opening paragraph. As some of you know, I was recently laid off from my job. I have mixed emotions but mostly all of those emotions are optimistic ::key Shirley Temple‘s “Be Optimistic” song:: Today, I was seriously struggling with finding joy and beating myself up on several counts. Yeah, the latter doesn’t help in the joy department. I sent out a mass text to my small group girls confessing my lack of it, knowing they too could relate. I told them it was amazing how my heart could be both hurting and hard at the same time. Irony? I think so. Yes, here’s the part where you say, “Rachel, things could be SO much worse, yada, yada, yada.” Whoooooooaaa…..hang on there for a second, please. My point: It still hurts. Could it hurt worse and are others feeling it worse? Abso-freakin’-lutely. I do realize that, and that in itself has given me a perspective that’s caused me joy and peace….and humility….from a grace that I almost don’t want to accept because it doesn’t seem possible there could be such an amazing grace and I know I in no way merit it. I have felt the part of the “wretch” in John Newton’s “Amazing Grace.” Another thing that helped ward off despair and doubt was what J.R. Vassar said in his sermon, “Answered and Unanswered” (prayer). I was re-listening to it with my mom, whom had never heard a Vassar message before. Needless to say, I got her hooked. He said something to this effect: “Don’t let the things you don’t know rob you from hoping and finding strength in the things you do know” (regarding what we know in/through Christ).

Wow. OK now. I’m already getting away from the main point: the breakthrough. As I was texting my small group leader (aka dear bestie and sister) the imagery C.S. Lewis used in his book “Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” kept appearing in my brain; the part where Aslan (the Lion representing God) appears before Eustace in his beastly, dragon form and tells him to bath but to undress first. But the part of my text to her that prompted that thought and got me to where I am now, writing this post, were these words: God is such a persistent Lover and I’ve been seeing that more and more. I almost want to push Him away, yet I want to flee to His arms all the same. 

Back to Aslan and Eustace. Aslan told him to undress before bathing in this crystal clear pool of water. Eustace realized what he meant was that he was going to have to shed his scales (layer of skin). After doing it three times, he despaired because there seemed to be no end to them.

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 it see it coming away.

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 moement. 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 (referring to the bracelet that had gotten him turned into a dragon in the first place).

I refer to that story for so many reasons; one being my job. Another is seeing and being shown ugliness about my own conduct, ways I’ve compromised, ultimately grieving the Lord (and hurting others – unintentionally and obliviously at times) and lack of integrity. A part of myself (bigger than I’d like), my pride, RAILS against my flaws and sin being pointed out to me by others, while another part craves it just like how Eustace described just getting the mere pleasure of the bad skin peeled off. What I mean by that, is that others pointing it out to me is a start but if what they say has merit, for the skin to really be peeled off, I need a heart change to implement by the Holy Spirit’s. I keep subtly letting the thought that I’ve got it covered or am on top of it because I know this or that, and then, WHOOSH, the rug is once again pulled from under me. It’s like Eustace “undressing” himself. It seems good and effective, but in reality it doesn’t hurt to the point of permanent change; it’s not good enough. I do love how the Lord keeps breaking and disciplining me. I would rather have the temporary pain of whatever trial, because it brings me closer to the deliciousness of His love and grace, and I pray is for the benefit and edification of those around me. He is continually molding, peeling off the scales (sanctification) for my good and His glory.

I praise God for those of you He’s used to gently and not so gently, knowingly and unknowingly, to peel off those scales and undress me. It reminds me, in my nakedness, to flee to Him who delights in me; and to once again be reminded that He is ENOUGH and my ALL in ALL.


Rachel B. Duke


One thought on “Peeling Back the Layers

  1. Downloaded audiobook version of Chronicles of Narnia and am to the book, Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Eustace just became a boy again!! Fearing I might be this boy, I googled his name and found your blog. Thank you for using your gift of writing to help me identify. I am so inspired with all your writings. God bless you sweet Rachel!

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