On Corruption and Conversion: The Great Divorce #11

Even though I have been behind schedule, I cannot help but write briefly on the second half of Chapter 11. In a story that, thus far, has provided heartache and conviction, I felt I had to comment, even if only for a moment, on that one story of great joy!

As the Writer and his teacher move away from Pam, the mother who struggled with bitterness over her son’s death, they have a bit of a conversation followed by a magnificent encounter.


“Brass is mistaken for gold more easily than clay is… it is a stronger angel, and therefore, when it falls, a fiercer devil.” (MacDonald) 


The love of a mother for her child is far closer to godly than is the depravity of lust. Because of this, the love of a mother for her child can also more easily be mistaken for something godly than can the depravity of lust. Because of this, it is entirely possible that the love of a mother for her child could be a greater hindrance to faith than can the depravity of lust. That lust is sinful is without argument, even from a secular perspective. I have read articles recently, spoken without mention or mind towards God, condemning the danger of lust. To argue, though, that mother-love is dangerous, is to tread on far more brittle ground.

To further the comparison, the writer and MacDonald then encounter a man and his lust, portrayed as a red lizard fixed upon his shoulder. The man is speaking with an angel who is pleading for redemption. Redemption, though, will come with pain. The lizard must die. The process will hurt. But the result will be glorious.


“Every natural love will rise again and live forever in this country: but none will rise again until it has been buried.” (MacDonald) 


Finally, a ghost who chooses redemption! A ghost who chooses freedom! A ghost who chooses Christ! It’s a moment to stand up and cheer. The country itself rejoices, a song rising from the rocks, hills, and trees.

So what about that lizard? How is it that the lizard became a mighty steed? And what about the mother and her love?

Sin is the corruption of something God intended for good. Idolatry is a corruption of true worship, substituting something created for the Creator. Murder (or even anger) is a corruption of the image of God. Lust is a corruption of real love. In Adam, every heart is sinful, which means that the seeds of goodness created and implanted by God have been corrupted and manifest in deadly ways. It stands to reason, then, that when sinners come to salvation in Christ, the corrupt seeds find life anew in him. Worship is rightly directed towards God again. The image of God is restored, changing views of self and others. Love itself is redeemed and expressed rightly with an eye towards God, who is love.

And so the lizard became a steed. The sinful corruption was buried, here crushed by the flaming hand of the angel, and then granted resurrection in purity. What had been distorted was now right again.


“Ye must ask, if the risen body even of appetite is as grand a horse as ye saw, what would the risen body of maternal love or friendship be?” (MacDonald) 


By showing the steed rising from the lizard, we are not merely meant to marvel at the redemption of such a sin. Instead, by MacDonald’s words we are left to wonder what might be if Pam’s mother-love found conversion in Christ? How glorious would such love be if the stain of corruption is lifted and new life reigns? In my previous post, I quoted the words of the Lord, illustrating that our corrupt love must appear as hatred in comparison to our love of God in Christ Jesus. Many might protest such an instruction, but Lewis here illustrates the result of surrender to the supremacy of Christ.




Love incorruptible.

Greater than a lizard becoming a steed.

Love fueled by God who is love.

Love moved by Christ who gave his life.

Love powered by the Holy Spirit.

Real love.



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