On Finding Aslan

If ever there was a thrilling way to read the Chronicles of Narnia, it is this: reading it aloud to your children. Snuggled up on the couch, reading it with my years of faith behind me and my daughter’s fresh pair of ears and vivid imagination – it is a wild ride of joy and discovery.

This is not the first time I am reading the Narnia series. Far from it. But this time I am experiencing a new, raw emotion as I read. As we journey through the pages and the drama, with enemies closing in, betrayal all around and the future unclear, I keep finding myself holding my breath: I just can’t wait for the lion to show up.

I find myself aching for Aslan’s arrival. Why does he not come sooner? Can’t he see the children are in trouble? I remember the stories generally well enough to know that he does always turn up, and that in hindsight it was always exactly the right moment – but as we read I find I’m LONGING for it. I’m flipping the pages, desperate for the narrative to declare his arrival.

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My heart literally beats faster when he finally arrives. I am struck once again at how unexpectedly wise, how disarmingly discerning, how powerful, how playful, how loving, how tender, how stern he is. He is breathtaking. I know it isn’t just me, either, because my 5-year old’s face shines with joyous awe when we get to the Aslan parts. She is my little Lucy incarnate, and I love her all the more for it.

My daughter and I were both misty-eyed when we got to the end of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader last week, where Aslan tells Lucy that this is their last Narnian goodbye. Lucy is heartbroken:

β€œIt isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”
“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.
“Are -are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.
“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

“Do you know Aslan’s other name in our world?” I asked my daughter.

“Jesus,” she whispered back, all fierceness-and-devotion in her voice.

Reading Narnia with my daughter has made me think long and deep again. By knowing Aslan there for a little, I am to know him better here. This is the very reason Lewis brought us to Narnia.

But why, then, do I long for Aslan in a way that I haven’t longed for Jesus for a while? Why have I not found myself praying Maranatha – COME Lord Jesus as the early church did?

I wondered about this for a while and then forgot about it. And then one evening, while reading through the gospel of Luke with my small group, all of a sudden, I felt the Lion show up. My heart rate literally sped up, because there on the pages of Luke, He had arrived. And I found I had forgotten how unexpectedly wise, how disarmingly discerning, how powerful, how playful, how loving, how tender, how stern he is. Jesus is breathtaking.

I had forgotten. It’s been a while since I’ve read the gospels.

CS Lewis’s Aslan is 100% proof positive that he was a diligent student of the gospels. The Aslan he wrote of was Jesus in every way: the one who grows bigger the more we know him, the one who gave his life for his betrayers, the one who never explains what “could have” have happened but gives grace enough for the next step. He is disarming, delightful, terrifying, hilarious. He is not a tame lion.

There are perhaps more people who have read Narnia than have read one of the gospels in the past 25 years. Friends, if you loved Aslan (even as a child), and you haven’t read Matthew, Mark, Luke or John in a while – do yourself a favor:

Read a gospel.

Watch this 3 minute video by NT Wright if you need an incentive. And if I can offer one tip while reading, it would be this: don’t read it waiting for the “take away nugget”. Read it as if you were one of the crowd, one of the Pevensie children, meeting him for the first time.

And I’ll eat my hat if, while reading the gospels, you don’t find that the Lion shows up.

13 thoughts on “On Finding Aslan

  1. This makes me a little sad that my Narnia books are all packed away! My bible however, is still easily accessible πŸ™‚

  2. Since I recently finished reading the whole set to Luke and Zeke, and correspondingly with Siena (and Sofia up and down off the couch), I am touched by this blog. I, too, was exhilarated … again. I have lost count of how many times I’ve read the series… Six? Seven? But each and every time it makes me weep with longing and awe and joy and worship and hope and renewed faith. I want so much for them to SEE. Narnia gives us 3D glasses to see the Gospels in a fresh new way; making them the same only MORE the same. Clearer, better, truer, as the children saw Narnia from beyond the end of the world. Aslan’s willing submission to the consequences of Edmund’s treachery, the deep magic and the Deeper Magic, the breaking of the Table, the flying gold when Aslan shook his newly-alive mane. Glory. The earth boiling out animals and the corresponding singing. The entrance of the Neevil. The Door. The stable.The universe rushing to oblivion. Further up and further in!!!!! Maranatha!

    • Maranatha indeed!!! I must say, I am looking forward to reading it again with the boys in years to come. And then again. And again…… Also, I think it makes a big difference reading it aloud. After I wrote this post, it struck me that another similarity between reading the gospels and Narnia this summer is that we are reading both aloud (whereas usually I read the bible silently). I think perhaps I am more of an auditory learner than I realized!

  3. Bron! This literally gave me chills reading it. Being in Nepal has literally helped me to see Jesus COME in new ways, as the girls share their experiences of being rescued by him. It has been powerful to return to the anticipation of Jesus showing up in such beautiful ways! And my parents read the Narnia series to us, and I plan to read it to my kids! Thank you for writing this!!! Love ya!

  4. Bron – Having grown up reading junk literature, it took me until just last year to read the entire series out loud to all 4 kiddos. What depth, what love we all had for Aslan as we learned more about him with each book and there was no question among every child as to who he symbolized. And we too were all waiting for him to show up in each book, breathless as well. I so feel the emotion you describe. I think it may be time to read them aloud again!

  5. Oh Bron! I wish I had read this before yesterday. I read it here, early in the morning with tears in my eyes and you know why. I love God for putting this in my lap this morning. I love God for using servants like you to communicate to his stubborn (read: me) children. Because he does show up and I have missed it lately. Praying today my pulse would be quickened by him. Thank you friend!

  6. Charlie and I are halfway through Prince Caspian. I have been feeling exactly what you talk about here. The heart beating faster, chills running down my spine, and I notice that I’m even reading the words faster. I appreciate you helping to bring my attention back to the question, of why I feel that way about the literary analogy, but haven’t been feeling that way about the living Word. Thoughts to ponder, and to bring before the Lion Himself.He is not a tame lion. But He is good πŸ™‚

  7. Hi Bronwyn! We are studying C.S. Lewis in our intern class @ UCC, and you have captured how I felt while reading Narnia exactly. You also spoke directly to my frustration with myself for finding Jesus to be so vibrant in a fictional novel, yet not in my daily life or my reading of Scripture. I am definitely going to apply your advice to reading scripture now, and watch the Lion show up πŸ™‚ Also, I miss you a lot, even though we are both in Davis!

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