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Bad Beginning to Happy Endings

C. S. Lewis spins a remarkable story in The Great Divorce about a little red lizard that a certain ghost carries on his shoulder. The lizard twitches its tail and whispers continually to the ghost, who urges him all the while to be quiet. When a bright and shining presence appears and offers to rid the ghost of his troublesome “baggage,” the ghost refuses. He understands that to quiet the beast it is necessary to kill it.

Then a series of rationalizations begins. Perhaps the lizard need not die but can instead be trained, suppressed, put to sleep, or gotten rid of gradually. The presence responds that the gradual approach is useless in dealing with such beasts—it must be all or nothing. Finally, with the ghost’s permission, the presence twists the lizard away from him breaking its back as he flings it to the ground. Then an amazing thing happens. The ghost becomes a perfect man, and at the same moment the lizard becomes an incredibly beautiful silver and gold stallion, full of beauty and power. Then the man leaps astride the great horse, and they ride into the morning as one.

Lewis ends his story with these words: “What is a lizard compared with a stallion? Lust is a poor, weak, whimpering, whispering thing compared with that richness and energy of desire which will arise when lust has been killed.”

From Bad Beginnings to Happy Endings, by Ed Young (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publ., 1994), p.107.

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