“Simple” Stories, Deep Wisdom
I had to take a long drive by myself yesterday, and to pass the time I listened to my favorite set of CDs–the dramatized Focus on the Family version of the Narnia Chronicles, with introductions by Lewis’ son. I got through The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Prince Caspian before the trip was done, and was amazed (as I often am) by the many nuggets of spiritual wisdom Lewis throws into these “simple” children’s stories. If you haven’t read the Chronicles of Narnia, or haven’t read them recently enough to remember them, pick them up sometime. You won’t be disappointed! (And no, the recent Disney movie versions are NOT an adequate substitute. Don’t get me started on those…)
In one particular scene from Prince Caspian, Lucy woke from sleep feeling that the voice she liked best in the world had been calling her name. She gets up to search for the voice, finally coming upon Aslan, who is shining white in the moonlight. He is huge, and beautiful, and she rushes to him without a thought, as though her heart would burst if she lost a moment.
“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
I’m quite sure that when I read these books as kid, I didn’t really comprehend what that meant. My understanding of God and faith was pretty simple. I knew a bit from my Christian grandparents, but I was being raised in an atheist household–there was no going to church, no Sunday School, no praying, or reading the Bible, and any talk about God was likely to be negative.
I’m not even sure how long it took me to realize that Aslan was supposed to represent Jesus. At first, it didn’t matter. What I understood, and responded to, was the wonder in scenes like these–the way in which the trees came to life and danced in Aslan’s presence (they couldn’t help themselves), and most importantly, the protective, restorative love Aslan poured out on Lucy without pause or condition.
It was a unique kind of love that I didn’t find between the other characters, or in other books. Even when Aslan was instructing, or scolding, it was with a firm gentleness that prompted a willing respect and obedience. Somehow I recognized that Aslan’s love was different than any other. I longed for it, and I was seeking it, just as Lucy had been. When I felt God’s love for the first time, in the real world, I knew I’d felt it before…through Lucy.
Aslan doesn’t just shower Lucy with his love in this short scene then send her away, however. Lucy and Aslan have a real relationship. He growls at her when she begins to blame the others for getting them lost, and he allows her to see that she is just as much at fault. When fear causes her to express her anger and frustration, Aslan doesn’t rebuke her, but gives her strength to deal with it instead. There is something important he needs her to do–something that will be hard–because she’s the youngest, and because her faith allows her to see what the others can’t yet. Ultimately, it is Aslan’s love for her, and the strength of their relationship, that gives Lucy the courage to tell the others, “I’ll have to go with him (Aslan) whether anyone else does or not.”
Reading these passages now, with adult eyes, adult knowledge, and a fair share of life’s scars to boot, I have a much deeper understanding of what Lewis was really saying. (And believe me, this is only one spiritual nugget of MANY from this part of the book). I do indeed find “Aslan” bigger, and more amazing, every year I grow as a Christian. Our relationship is a constant work-in-progress. Sometimes I have Lucy’s child-like faith. Sometimes I’m Edmund who cannot see, but moves forward anyway out of trust. At other times I’m Susan, who doesn’t see because she is trapped listening to her own fears instead of Aslan’s voice.
Maybe part of why Prince Caspian spoke to me so clearly yesterday is because in the section of book 3 that I’m working on now, my characters are facing some of the same issues. They are also “lost” in the spiritual woods so to speak, and I am working through their struggles alongside of my own.
For Morganne and Elowyn things are changing again, too quickly for them to stop and catch their breaths. They’re desperately seeking Aviad’s guidance, but are unsure if that golden shadow moving between the trees ahead is really Him, wanting them to follow, or just a trick of the moonlight. The answers don’t come easy. Aviad is asking them to do something important–something hard–because they can see what others can’t yet.
Will they wrap themselves in Aviad’s strength and accept His will as Lucy did? Or will they close their eyes and resist like Susan, only finally seeing Him in hindsight? I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for book 3 to find out.
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