“I saw coming towards us a Ghost who carried something on his shoulder … [it] was a little red lizard, and it was twitching its tail like a whip and whispering things in his ear. As we caught sight of him he turned his head to the reptile with a snarl of impatience. ‘Shut up, I tell you!’ he said. It wagged its tail and continued to whisper to him. He ceased snarling, and presently began to smile …
‘Would you like me to make [the lizard] quiet?’, said [a] flaming Spirit- an angel as I now understood.
‘Of course I would’, said the Ghost.
‘Then I will kill him’, said the Angel, taking a step forward …
‘You didn’t say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that’.
‘It’s the only way’, said the Angel … ‘shall I kill it?’
‘Well, that’s a further question … I mean, for the moment I was only thinking about silencing it…’
‘May I kill it?’
‘Well, there’s time to discuss it later’
‘There is no time. May I kill it?’ …
‘Please really- don’t bother. Look! It’s gone to sleep of its own accord. I’m sure it’ll be all right now. Thanks ever so much’
‘May I kill it?’
‘Honestly, I don’t think there’s the slightest necessity for that … I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it’
‘The gradual process is of no use at all’
‘Don’t you think so? Well, I’ll think over what you’ve said very carefully. I honestly will. In fact I’d let you kill it now, but as a matter of fact I’m not feeling frightfully well to-day. It would be most silly to do it now. I’d need to be in good health for the operation. Some other day, perhaps … I’ll come again the first moment I can’
‘There is no other day. All days are present now’
‘Get back! You’re burning me. How can I tell you to kill it? You’d kill me if you did’
‘It is not so … I never said it wouldn’t hurt you. I said it wouldn’t kill you’
‘If you wanted to help me, why didn’t you kill the damned thing without asking me – before I knew? It would be all over now if you had’
‘I cannot kill it against your will. It is impossible. Have I your permission?’ …
‘Damn and blast you! ‘Go on, can’t you? Get it over. Do what you like’, bellowed the Ghost: but ended, whimpering, ‘God help me, God help me’. Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I have never heard on Earth. The Burning One closed his crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, and flung it, broken backed, on the turf.
~ The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis, ch. 11.
A lot of times when people are in addiction and stuck in a rut are afraid of change and the call that God has on them. Many in addiction are condemned to addiction and never to change, even by the church, because churches are sadly run most of the time by people who’ve never experienced God’s healing power and so deny it to others. While it is true that God’s grace is unconditional in the sense that no-one can do anything to merit it but receive it only as a free gift, the cost of that gift is our life. It’s our life that must be surrendered, and not just some of it but all of it. In everyone there are red lizards on our shoulders that we are darn scared of handing over to God because it hurts so much; and we don’t give them over often in fear that we will die. But while it hurts, it won’t kill us. In fact, it saves; in the Great Divorce, just after this scene the man who has surrendered the red lizard morphs into an astonishingly new and stronger man, beyond recognition. (Interestingly, a similar depiction of healing is found in the Chronicles of Narnia, in the book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where Eustace is healed of being a dragon by Aslan in chapter seven, ‘How the Adventure Ended’.)
This sketch of Lewis’ is telling because it is exactly how God is trying to engage with all in sexual and relational brokenness and addiction: ‘Give to me that which is digging its claws into you. I am safe”. But even knowing that the saviour is safe and good doesn’t mean surrender will occur (Exodus 6:9). The man with the red lizard goes backwards and forwards with the angel, almost haggling and the angel asks with irritating repetition ‘May I kill it?’ But the man has to surrender not only the lizard, but his deeper fears and his inner self, and that is where the biggest change occurs. And healing does come- it is in an instant, it is thorough, it permeates the inside and through to the outside. And even though the sin/addiction seems to sleep for a while it never rests- it must be killed if its work is to be destroyed.
Does that mean that a journey of healing over time doesn’t occur in people? It does, but like the man with the red lizard, I and others have experienced mini-breakthroughs not dissimilar to what this man has gone through. But deliverance is possible. Just something to think about if you are struggling with addiction and brokenness. 🙂 The Great Divorce is worth reading in its entirety as a helpful commentary on heaven and hell and how sin leads people to hell unless it is dealt with by encountering God’s power. Sin must be surrendered voluntarily- God never just takes away struggle because surrendering it is the only option. It cannot be managed and lived with as many conservative Christians believe either- it must be crucified. Is it possible? It certainly is. As a friend wrote recently:
When it comes to healing, God is more concerned with the process than its duration….Don’t rush God (Isaiah 5:19), yourself, or your heart when you need to be whole! Moving in haste puts you at risk for greater harm to be done. Healing is two-fold (faith + action = freedom):
Believing: Believing that God is able and willing to heal you!
Obedience: Obeying whatever He asks you to do, no matter how uncomfortable or silly it may “seem” its important for you to rid yourself from any and everything that contributed to your being broken/sick
It may be difficult but not impossible, I mean would you rather be in perpetual state of brokenness or live a life a wholeness that Christ died for?
Forgiving your offenders is important too because its through releasing those that have hurt you that will make room for those that will aid in your healing! Once again its a process so take your time; but don’t be stationary when you God is telling you move beyond where you currently are. God wants to move you onto a lifestyle of worship!