“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 jut 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 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 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 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. . . .” (from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader)
What dragon skin have you acquired? What slings and arrows of the enemy have you endured that you needed to grow the thick scales, the impenetrable armor, the quick, whip-like tail? Is it resentment for having been overlooked? Is it protection from bullies—the personal and the institutional kind? Is it a hardening heart so that others’ hurts don’t affect you?
In a harsh world many millenia ago, a man named Laban had two daughters. “The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance.” (Genesis 29:16-17)
Rachel’s loveliness captured the attention of Jacob, and he agreed to work for Laban for seven years in order to capture her hand in marriage. But Jacob the trickster (for he had deceived his father and stolen his brother’s birthright) found himself pranked by his father-in-law. Laban substituted Leah for Rachel on the wedding night. Though furious, there was nothing Jacob could do but work for seven more years.
Weak-eyed (sometimes translated tender-eyed) Leah was second best. Through the years, tension mounted between the sisters, vying for the affection of their shared husband, toughening hearts, making a cruel world more bitter and brutal to live in. The children raised in this household fought one another, with the majority eventually rising up against one and selling him into slavery.
What if we read the story backwards, from the end to the beginning?
We find a man who is able to heal sicknesses, raise the dead and make the blind to see. His power over the creation is manifested in miracles—calming the stormy sea and turning a small lunch into enough food for more than 5,000. His command over the people he meets, however, is not in his strength or in his toughness, but in the tenderness of his gaze on the people who come to him in need. He loves them. And though he could have directed all of the heavens to divert the intentions of the cruel leaders and the hard-hearted crowds who wanted him dead, he became weak and humiliated and crushed for our sakes.
This man, Jesus the Messiah, comes from the line of Judah, the son of Leah, Leah of the weak eyes. Leah the less favored one by Jacob, but perhaps the more favored one by God.
It’s all a matter of perspective. Instead of feeling like we need to protect ourselves from the world we feel has been so cruel and harsh to us, what if we used a different approach to the troubles of life? What if we begin at the end, with what the Lord is trying to accomplish in us—for us to become more like him, tenderhearted, humble, and patient ? And what if we consider what we are experiencing as a preparation for that? As a peeling of the skin, the tough, knobby layers dropping away, and the person underneath being just what He has intended for us to be all along.
His first choice. His preferred child. His favored one.