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.

20130812-141430.jpg

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.

Truth in the details

P1010065“Mom, can I have a quesadilla?”

Instead of my usual retorts (“No, it’s 4:30pm and I’m serving dinner soon”, “Sorry, quesadillas aren’t on the menu tonight”, “It’s may I have a quesadilla, not can I” – Yes, I am a grammar nazi), this time I LEAPT out of my chair and started rummaging in the fridge for tortillas and cheese.

Why? Because it’s the first time in four days she has wanted to eat. It’s the first sign that she’s starting to feel better. And so quesadillas it is, my precious girl.

You know sick kids are better when they want a snack.

It’s little details like this that bring the gospels to life for me and remind me that they are eye-witness accounts of things that really happened: After Jesus healed Jairus’ daughter, the first thing she did was have something to eat (Mark 5:43). Yup. That’s exactly what a recovering child does. And after Peter’s mother-in-law was healed, the first thing she does is get up and work in the kitchen (Matthew 8:14). Yup, that’s exactly what I do.

It’s little details like being told that when Jesus calmed the storm, the disciples had to wake him up; since he was sleeping in the stern of the boat, on pillow (Mark 4:38). Two little details, included in the story because that’s just how they remember finding him.

Like John the fisherman telling of that amazing day when they came across the resurrected Jesus and he told them to throw their nets to the other side so they’d pull in a large haul of fish. The fisherman-narrator tells us that that they pulled in not just a large number of fish, but 153 of them. I wouldn’t have counted the number of fish (John 21:11). John did, and the detail smacks of truth.

They say the “devil’s in the details”. But for me, I see the ring of truth there.