Peeling Off the Layers

The past two days at the Duke Clinical Research Unit have been challenging in many ways. They are running out of good veins to stick. Alas, tomorrow (Friday) I’ll have more waiting-time to ponder what it means to be “me” as I go through a nuclear scan and a couple other fun tests. Then on Monday, I’ll have a bone biopsy, spend the night in the hospital, AND GET THE FIRST INJECTION ON TUESDAY MORNING! Hoo-rah!!

Since writing “Who Am I?” and “What Really Counts,” I have had a bundle of “kindling” thrown onto the fire of my quest! The first little spark caught when Terry, my husband, suggested that I go to our favorite thrift store and buy a lot of books to read when I don’t feel well during the research project. I nearly fainted! This is the man who said after receiving my bill from a bookstore, “Honey, have you ever thought of a library card?” I quickly pulled myself together and headed for the shop! There I found, among other things, C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia—the whole series of seven for $3.50! Long ago I had read a couple of the books, but now I have savored them all!

The spark was fanned while reading book five, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. A young boy, Eustace, a grumpy, pouty, doubting boy, stumbled upon a cave full of a dead dragon’s treasure. “Sleeping on a dragon’s hoard with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart,” he became a dragon as he slept. Eustace quickly realized all that treasure wasn’t worth it. He “wanted to get back among humans and talk and laugh and share things…He began to wonder if he himself had been such a nice person as he had always supposed.” Later in the story, Aslan, the lion who is the God-figure in the series, came to the wounded dragon-boy in the night and said to him, “Follow me.”

The Lion led Eustace to the top of a mountain where there was a beautiful garden with trees and fruit and a huge spa-like well in the midst of it all. Eustace, the dragon, thought if he could just bathe in the water, his wounds would be soothed. Aslan told him he must undress first. Eustace scratched off his dragon scales and stepped into the water. Immediately he was as scaly as before. To his dismay this happened three times. “Then the lion said… ‘You will have to let me undress you.’” Eustace lay down on his back. He had never experienced such pain as when the lion tore into him and began pulling off the scales and skin! When he was “as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller,” Aslan picked Eustace up and threw him into the water. After the first shock of pain, Eustace realized he was a boy again. He was who he was meant to be. Aslan took him out of the water and dressed him in new clothes.

The flames were fanned a little higher when I ran across a paragraph I had saved from Thomas Merton’s New Seeds for Contemplation: “I must learn to let go of the familiar and the usual and consent to what is new and unknown to me. I must learn to ‘leave myself’ in order to find myself by yielding to the love of God. If I were looking for God, every event and every moment would sow, in my will, grains of God’s life that would spring up one day in a tremendous harvest.”

Then, there came words from Meister Eckhart: “Our letting go is in order that God might be God in us.”

As the fire in my soul grows and refines me, I come to these thoughts, not answers, thoughts to wrestle with:

  • In my quest to discover who I am, do I have the courage to follow, be stripped down to the core, and thrown into a pool of transformation?
  • Can I let go of my “dragon,” my disease, and let it become in some way Christ-Gift, God-In-Me?
  • Am I willing to “‘leave myself’ in order to find myself by yielding to the love of God?”

I hold on to the words of Julian of Norwich, the 14th century visionary, in the coming weeks:

“God did not say, ‘You will not be troubled;

you will not be belaboured;

you will not be disquieted.’

God said, ‘you will not be overcome.’”


  1. Mary Lou McMillin
    Sep 25, 2015

    WOW! This story of Eustace is one of my all-time favorites when it comes to thoughts of confession, redemption, baptism, transformation etc. and yes, the ‘who am I ‘ quest ..,
    Surprised to find that you had not read all of Narnia before. What a timely FIND!! So refreshing for this stage in your life & now you have them to read to Claire & Tucker in a few years!
    Know that my thoughts & prayers continue with you as you undergo the last of this series of tests tomorrow Praying for patience, calm, peace & loving folks to tend you.
    I love you!

  2. Tam Larson
    Sep 25, 2015

    A wonderful read. God is already in you and we have seen the great works He has done through you. Prayers are with you as you continue on your way, God is faithful and He will remain alongside of you throughout these coming days and are much loved by many!

  3. Megan Limburg
    Sep 25, 2015

    Wow! Wow! Seeds are being sown in you, Donna, in this complex, painful, and yes, always holy time. Many thanks for writing and ministering to me. We love you and Terry, and prayers always.

  4. Amy Compton
    Sep 25, 2015

    Thanks for reminding me about Eustace (sp?) in Narnia. I find myself re-reading this series (and the Hobbit books, too), about every 10 years, and I always find new insights and parallels in my own life. I’ve been peeled and pruned a number of times in life! I also marvel at the wisdom of Lewis and Tolkien, and I have loved and been instructed by everything I’ve read from either of them.

    I want to send you a book that I’m loving right now, Accidental Saints: Finding God In All the Wrong People, by Nadia Bolz-Weber. In a very different way, it takes up similar things about journeys and spiritual growth.

    Know that you are daily in my prayers.
    Grace & Peace,

    Amy C.

  5. Brenda Linkenhoker
    Sep 25, 2015

    Praying for you daily as you enter this infusion/research journey.

  6. Pat Churchman
    Sep 25, 2015

    you’re always in my heart and prayers. I hate that you’re having to go through all this, but only hope it will help you. Much love, Pat

  7. Harriet G Smith
    Sep 25, 2015

    Awesome reading and inspiration here, as usual. Thank you.

  8. Peggy Roberson
    Sep 25, 2015

    You always inspire me and the Eustace/dragon story is one of my favorites and one I identify with. Blessings on you. Much love, Peggy

  9. Sarah Phelps
    Sep 26, 2015

    Donna, Steve and I will be thinking of you on Tuesday. You are always in our thoughts,of course, but we will double down then. So many breakthroughs are happening in the medical field. Yours will be one of them!
    All love to you and Terry,

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