Expect Dragons (in which I leverage the lessons of certain dead British authors)

Sketch by J.R.R. Tolkien (The Art of The Hobbit)
Sketch by J.R.R. Tolkien from The Art of The Hobbit

**In my ongoing quest to leverage my love for dead British authors (whose writings continue to be long-lasting and meaningful) in the realm of life and ministry (which on occasion runs the risk of being short-lived and shallow), I have compiled:

Seven Principles for a Lasting and Meaningful Ministry, also applicable to Life and other Meaningful Endeavors, based on the writings of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Dorothy Sayers, and G.K. Chesterton, authors now long-dead but whose Devout Embrace of Christ lives still in various and sundry essays, tales, poems, letters, and diaries. MMXV.

PRINCIPLE #4: EXPECT DRAGONS

“As you like,” said Chrysophylax, licking his lips again, but pretending to close his eyes. He had a very wicked heart (as dragons all have), but not a very bold one (as is not unusual).
–from “Farmer Giles of Ham,” J.R.R. Tolkien

But perhaps if he had known something about dragons he would have been a little surprised at this dragon’s behaviour. Most of us know what we should expect to find in a dragon’s lair, but, as I said before, Eustace had read only the wrong books. They had a lot to say about exports and imports and governments and drains, but they were weak on dragons.
–from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis

Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.
–from “The Red Angel” in Tremendous Trifles, G.K Chesterton

Here be dragons to be slain, here be rich rewards to gain . . .
If we perish in the seeking . . . why, how small a thing is death!
–from “Desdichado” in Catholic Tales and Christian Songs, Dorothy Sayers

So, here’s the thing about dragons: they are hands down, entirely, thoroughly, exceptionally, and superlatively bad, wicked, evil, nasty, foul, no-good little stinkers. Period.

Except here. Except now.

Our sophisticatedly nuanced world offers us dragon riders, dragon trainers, and dragon fighter-pilots. Nothing against these tales or their authors (Naomi Novick’s series about draconian aerial warfare during the Napoleonic wars is supremely delightful), but this recent domestication of dragons portends something infinitely more perilous.

On the one hand, we fail (or refuse) to recognize dragons for what they really are, convinced that if we just handle them gently enough, feed them plenty of tasty bits, and cajole them with sweet songs, they will somehow cease to be dragons — as though we have the power and the wisdom to be undragoners.

On the other hand, having lost sight of real dragons, we now see dragons everywhere, squinting our eyes crooked-like and viewing things from inverted angles until – beware! – every kitten, tree, and cloud is branded a dragon — as though we have the capacity and the discernment to be dragonlords.

We surely do hate dragons . . . especially if they are of our own imagining.

We surely do love dragons . . . even if they threaten our very soul.

And by they, I meant it.

Sin. Self-enthronement. Me-centricity. I-fullness. God-emptiness.

It is a dangerous path we tread when we forget that Christ died because of dragons and instead focus our undivided attention on kittens, trees, or clouds, as though they endanger our very existence.

It is a perilous turn we take when we neither recognize nor admit the power of dragons, and instead head off into the forest with a knapsack of jelly sandwiches and a flapping paper shield, as though life were naught but a make-believe quest.

Dragons are. We ignore and forget this at the cost of our ministries and our lives.

But– Christ is. Christ will be. Christ forevermore. We live and minister within that brilliant truth, regardless of the cost.

Expect dragons, dear friends, and then prepare to willingly see them slain.

© Crystal Kirgiss 2015

2 thoughts on “Expect Dragons (in which I leverage the lessons of certain dead British authors)

  1. Adina's Artworld April 12, 2021 / 5:50 pm

    Could you possibly spew out any more unfounded hatred of that which you do not understand? Typical patriarchal drama. Where does it say that Christ died because of dragons?! That is entirely of your own making. All traditions around the world view the dragon as mysterious force of nature, bearer of secrets and a bringer of desire. Only in the West which loves to destroy nature is the dragon so feared. It’s nice that the West can reconnect with dragons who are only “foul” to you because they are untamable. But that is not a personality flaw, it is freedom and true divinity. You have reversed the ancient truths and we truth-knowers will not stand for it.

    • ckirgiss April 12, 2021 / 7:27 pm

      I think perhaps you missed the main point — that I’m referring to truths that are embodied and symbolized in mythical and metaphorical dragons. You are correct that in the Western world, they play a different role and function than in other parts of the world. Being a Westerner, I’m writing from that vantage point, and freely admitting so. As you rightly note, other traditions have different views of dragons. I did not ask or suggest that their views of a mythical creature shift in any way. But I would suggest that in every place and time, when evil (which is what dragons, at one time, represented in the West) is redefined as good, we are paving our own path of destruction. Of course Christ didn’t die because of actual dragons – which don’t actually exist. He died, as I wrote, because of sin, self-enthronement, me-centricity, I-fullness, God-emptiness, all of which at one time were embodied by mythical and destructive dragons, whether in art, literature, or music. Perhaps it would be clearer if I wrote “Christ died because of ‘dragons’ which is to say Sin.” I read and enjoy a good dragon book as much as anyone else. But if I ever remake good-&-evil the way we have remade dragons, it will be at my own peril.

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