Breaking Spells and Shedding Dragon Skins: When Narcissus Refuses the Mirror

Sometimes the only thing to break the spell of sin’s deadly lullaby is the waft of burnt Marsh-wiggle drifting through the air. As every lover of the Chronicles of Narnia knows, Puddleglum’s pessimism is a cloak for his idealistic heart. His heart beats with a real Narnian rhythm and so, when the moment of truth comes, when all is at stake, he does not give in to the Green Lady’s foggy incantations that threaten to undo all reason. And what better way to clear the sticky webs of doubt and insanity than by reminding yourself and everyone else just how gritty and singed reality can be? What’s realer than stomping on a fire with your bare Marsh-wigglian foot?

One question bopping around in my head these days is how do we know we’re really awake? Has the poisonous melody of sin lulled me into a stupor? Or am I seeing through to the other side of the glass, albeit dimly? What if this thing I’m working toward––this goal, this drive, this cause, this achievement––is just a dragon skin that needs ripped off by Aslan’s mighty claw? Would I know the difference between dragon skin and tender flesh? How do I discern the water if I’ve become a fish? In other words, when sinful heart motives have become normalized or justified, how do we discover them and break free?

Of course the first and best answer is to go to the Norm. The unchanging God in three persons. Open his book, read of his ways. But I’ve noticed that when we’ve acclimated to certain heart sins, we can even read them into the Bible. The self-aggrandizement knows no bounds. We want to justify our anger and all the sudden we’re saying, “Look! Jesus was angry!” We want to justify our favoritism and we quickly point out that Jesus had an Inner Ring. We want to justify our greed and we start making a big deal about how Joseph of Arimathea was wealthy. We want to justify our passivity and we start belaboring God’s sovereignty as though it negates God’s commands. We want to be well-liked by everyone and we think that as long as we don’t offend people, we’re making a doorway for the gospel. We want to be entertained by immorality and we start telling everyone who raises an eyebrow that the Bible itself is R-rated.

Don’t get me wrong. God’s word is powerful. Sharper than swords. But the human heart is deceitful. Even the regenerate human heart can come under a spell. So what to do?

The best thing I know to do is to try letting someone else hold the mirror for a while. And by someone else, I mean someone who doesn’t benefit from telling us how great we look––and someone who isn’t under a similar spell. The mirror is never less pleasant than when we don’t have control over the angles and filters, when we don’t get to choose which parts of us we see reflected.

Perhaps the best way to shed the dragon skin is to let someone else tell us it’s there. It exists. It’s monstrous. Let someone whose walked around to the backside of us and seen the tail we’ve sprouted hold the mirror. We know we’re in deep when we––we who love the mirror as long as it’s poised at the right angle and managed with the right filters––start refusing to look in it when it’s in the hands of someone other than ourselves, someone who doesn’t come with a built in concern for our image or good Christian status.

What we really need is some burnt Marsh-wiggle to jolt us out of our stupor. But that takes courage and faith and sacrifice and a come-what-may kind of grit. It’s the Marsh-wiggle’s burnt foot that serves as the mirror to the rest of us.

To all the Puddleglums of the world: breaking spells is a dangerous business. For all the Nathan-like prophets willing to say to blind kings and blind moms and blind leaders and blind influencers, “You are the man,” the cost may be high. But we need you. Go put out some fires for us with your bare feet.