Saturday, February 16

The Great Divorce and the Lizard

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Artwork by Matt at

I am not one for making New Year's resolutions but this year I made one. I committed to myself to read one (non-pediatric or cardiology) book per month. I love to read and have a tendency to start a lot of books only to lose time or interest and not finish them. So I told myself that I would be very selective and only choose excellent books to start, and then persevere to the finish. My first choice was recommended by a friend and turned out to be one of the most interesting and certainly one of the most thoughtful and insightful books I have ever read.

C.S. Lewis is someone who brings to life our relationship with Christ and our struggle to live as He taught and gave us example to live. Although I have read several of Lewis' books and really enjoyed them I had never read The Great Divorce. This book tells of a man who has a dream of a journey he has from Hell to visit (and perhaps stay) in Heaven. He vividly reports the differences between the two places and along the journey describes several of his travel companions and what things are binding them to Hell and making it difficult for them to choose to leave their present place of dwelling behind and relocate to Heaven. It is a fascinating description of the many things that retard our own spiritual progression even while in our mortal state.

While I don't want to list every encounter he had, nor do I want to ruin the experience of reading The Great Divorce for anyone, which I highly recommend, there is one character that was particularly vivid and thought provoking. One man on his journey to Heaven is carrying a red lizard on his shoulder. The lizard is constantly whispering evil thoughts and lies into his ear. The man meets an Angel who tells him that he must allow the Angel to kill the lizard in order for him to continue on his journey. The man is not permitted to kill the lizard himself and the Angel cannot kill the lizard without the man ordering him to do so. In the exchange that follows, the man, with prompts from the lizard, gives every reason imaginable why the Angel should not kill his companion. Some of these include...

  • He doesn’t want to bother the spirit with killing it
  • It isn’t presently bothering him because it went to sleep
  • He’ll be able to get it under control himself through gradual process
  • He doesn’t feel well enough to go through with “the operation”
  • He thinks killing the lizard would kill him
  • He’ll go and get his doctor’s opinion (back in Hell), and come back later
  • Then he asks why the spirit hasn’t killed the lizard yet

Finally, in a painful experience, the man orders the Angel to kill the lizard. Within a few moments the lizard transforms into a beautiful and strong stallion that will accompany and assist the man as he continues on his journey.

I was just so impressed with the imagery of the lizard as the sins that "so easily beset us", by the eternal truth that the only way to overcome our own shortcomings is through the power and assistance of our Savior and the Holy Ghost, and that ultimately our sins can be transformed into strengths in our lives. As I said, I highly recommend this book to any of you who might be interested.