I have started reading The Chronicles of Narnia again. Every few years, I pick up The Magician’s Nephew and, over several days, wing my way through to the last page of The Last Battle, which never fails to capture my imagination and fill me with longing. It amazes me, as it always does, to recognize myself there on the pages of those books, always in a different place, caught up in the same adventure loved by children everywhere. I see myself so clearly then, walking in lock step with one character or another as they live out the story of my walk with Christ.
Sometimes I’m stumbling along with Edmund, lost in my own selfishness, unable to see the big picture until I crash hard upon the rocks of my mistakes.
Sometimes I’m Digory, so full of wanting something that it hurts my insides, knowing that God could provide it and not understanding why, in His love, He would withhold it.
Sometimes I wander, like Jill, intending to keep His words before me and the goal in sight, but instead I get tangled up by the distractions and diversions of the world until I forget what I’m doing here in the first place.
Sometimes I’m Caspian, up for whatever glorious adventure awaits and full of trust that, if only I keep sailing towards the sun, I am sure to find what I seek in the end.
And always there is Aslan. Seen or unseen, inscrutable in his ways, asking the impossible and looking nakedly into the dark corners of the heart, where all lies are stripped away and reasons and motivations lie open before him, he is the Voice that can only be accepted or rejected, never ignored. He cannot be bidden or manipulated, and yet his heart is moved by simple love. Sometimes he levels mountains to make our way easy and our path straight, but sometimes…he doesn’t.
After all, it’s not as if he’s a tame lion.
Much has been written about the Christian themes in The Chronicles of Narnia, with a few critics openly hostile to the idea that the books represent anything other than well-written children’s adventure fiction. Even C.S. Lewis himself admits that he didn’t set out to write any sort of allegory. In speaking of the books, he says, “At first there wasn’t anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord.” In a sense, the result is even more wondrous—it has the feeling of an irrepressible truth, written on the hearts of mankind, striving to make itself known.
My recent foray back through the wardrobe doors was propelled, in part, by the much-anticipated cinematic release of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Sitting in the darkened theater, I was tranfixed and delighted with the faithful translation of book to screen. The director did not, as I feared, attempt to remove Christian elements from the narrative, nor did he place undue emphasis on them. As Lewis did, he merely set the story in motion and left the audience to draw from it what they would. As the battle raged onscreen between the forces of the White Witch and the outnumbered Narnians, my heart swelled with the fierce happiness of knowing that I have chosen the right side (are we still allowed to say “right” and “wrong”?) and the feeling that I could gladly ride to conquest or calamity at the word of the One who gave all to save me. At the same time, I ached for those who don’t have that certainty, and inwardly I resolved to be more courageous in reaching out to them with the Lion’s invitation. More than anything, I wondered about those who missed out on the symbolism altogether, who truly saw nothing on the screen but talking animals and flashing swords. Are they just waiting for someone to come along and help them fit the pieces together? Some are, I know. Others, though, are like Digory’s Uncle Andrew, of whom Aslan said, “he has made himself unable to hear my voice. If I spoke to him, he would hear only growlings and roarings. Oh Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!”
If you’ve never read The Chronicles of Narnia, or if it’s been a while, I encourage you to pick them up, no matter what your age.The story is fantastic, but it is our story. And if you want to hear the Lion’s voice, you will.
“And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”