Longing for Narnia

I am longing for Narnia.

I almost lived on make believe as a child–or so I thought.  But I never could “play” Chronicles of Narnia.  I think I tried once.  It was like playing make-believe with the real!

Narnia was just about as factual for me as the Monday morning newspaper.  I knew it wasn’t real–well, I knew it wasn’t supposed to be real.  But it always was.

In the Chronicles of Narnia, I was mesmerized, like a sailor looking at an island too far away to visit, but too beautiful to let go, and I wanted the island to be “just so”.

Edmund, a forgiven traitor who became a king.  No one ever spoke of how little he deserved the honor.  But I knew Edmund always remembered.  Lucy is seen as the sweetheart of the series, but I’m telling you what, none of the children loved Aslan like Edmund.

Reepicheep, a big giant mouse.  I thought I’d marry a man just like Reepicheep someday.  He’d be courageous, epic, heroic.  He’d fight to the death for me, and he’d lay down everything for Aslan.  Reepicheep always remembered the song he’d heard from the cradle . . the song of Aslan, calling him home, and he wanted to be with Aslan more than anything else.

Aravis, a girl of stilted, worthless royalty in a godless gods-filled world.  Brave, wild, suicidal, untamable Aravis–whose heart was tamed by a lion she met one day.

Prince Rilian, caught under a spell, forced to forget the very one who he’d sworn to avenge, forced to love the very one who had murdered his mother.

Digory, the magician’s nephew.  Digory who opens the door into Narnia and discovers an apple and a witch.  I know I’ve been there before.

Mr. Tumnus, who changes sides and expects to keep it a secret.

Puddleglum, stooped in melodramatic gloom, who always seems to know a great deal more about love and joy than he lets on.  Puddleglum, who reaches into a fire and smashes his webbed hand against it to smother a serpent’s magic.

Eustace, spoiled, selfish, spoiled Eustace.  Eustace who plans to claim all the gold he’s found in the dragon’s cave for himself . . and ends up becoming the dragon.  Eustace who finds nothing undragonish within himself.  Eustace who cannot, for all his efforts, change himself back from dragon to boy.  Though he scrapes at the scales and peels his very skin away, he cannot escape the core dragon of who he has become.  Aslan, and only Aslan, must change him back.

Caspian, Aravis, Jill, Trumpkin, Shift & Puzzle, Susan, Bree, Polly, and the brave little squirrel who insists Father Christmas exists.  I could talk on and on about the characters who became so real to me, it was as if they’d always really been real and had just been waiting for someone to talk about them.

I started reading the series before I could read them.  I would jump on my mother’s bed after kindergarten, which was half days back then (boy, I am really old).  My mother would hold the gigantic blue book with the tiny print and read.  The blue book had a gold embossed lion on the front cover.  There were two volumes, one with the first books in it, and the other with the rest.

I read them back when The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe was still rightful first (which never should have changed!).  My mother was an exquisite, extraordinary reader; I jumped up on her bed day after day to hear her read a chapter in the story.

She read them to me until we ended with The Last Battle in fourth or fifth grade.  It was devastating.  The book ended just as I would have wanted it to, if I’d had the imagination to want something so extravagant.  The problem was, I didn’t want the series to end.  I wanted to read more.  More about Aslan.

There are stories where children become wizards and knights, gods and warlords, creatures and psychics, pop stars and masterminds, but I don’t know of any other story where children stay children and yet become kings and queens.

They might become kings and queens with dryads and centaurs to hail them, or they might become kings and queens with no fanfare, as Eustace and Jill do.

It is the becoming, not the coronation, that is the most fascinating, intricate, marvelous heart of the stories.  The children are always recreated, reformed, and renewed into children–still children–of such character that no one can look down on them for being children anymore.

Listening to the opening song of the BBC Narnia series causes my soul to quiver.

There is a deep, deep longing in my soul to become a child.

But not to be a child here.  I want to go to Narnia.

I want to go to Narnia and I want to explore the worlds of mystery and beauty for myself.

I want to go on an adventure.

I want Aslan to breathe me off a cliff and carry me to the countries below.  I want to settle into the beaver’s lodge for a night.  I want to scale the giant’s bridge.  I want to sail to the land beyond the sea.  I want to rest beside the waters where Aslan turned a dragon into a boy.  And I want to touch the stone table with my own hands.

Most of all–yes, most of all–I want to see Aslan.

There is one thing, and only one, that you cannot do to the Chronicles of Narnia.

You can make fun of it, you can belittle it, you can ignore it, you can dismiss it, and you can grow out of it, but there is one thing you cannot do.

You cannot take Aslan away.

Every character, every battle, every quest, every victory topples without Aslan.

And because you cannot take Aslan away, you cannot take Christ away.

The Lion is not only in the story, he is not only at the center of the story; he is not only throughout the story,

he is the story.

I want to see the Lion face to face.

C.S. Lewis gets credit for writing the books, but he knew and I know that he got help from the Lion.  The only way Lewis could ever have written such a rare glimpse into the world of Heaven is if God had shown him.

Narnia is, at its best, a glimpse of Heaven.

Not all of Narnia, of course.  Not the witch, or the awful wolf, or the king who would kill his own brother to take the throne, or the ape who fools the donkey into masquerading as Aslan.  Not the Turkish delight or the ghastly scepter or the silver chair or the fisherman’s blows.  Those things go before Heaven and choose to have no part in it.

But, though Satan doesn’t mean for it to, the longings of sin always lead to the longing for something that is not sin, because sin always turns out to be utterly disappointing, totally false, and a wicked trick of the mind.

In The Last Battle there is a scene that draws my heart more than any but one other scene.  The children all fearfully ask when they will return to their home land and have to part with Narnia again.  The idea has become unbearable to them.

Aslan explains they will never have to.

And then this, my very favorite scene, in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  A lion laid out on a stone table, dying for a traitor.

I am that traitor.

Without that scene, there is no scene where the traitor returns to Narnia to live there forever.

And while I love the Last Battle, and I look forward to the endless adventures of Heaven, I will always look back on the Stone Table most, because there is no good in longing for Heaven if you can’t have it.

Because of the Stone Table, I can belong to Heaven.  I can be a Narnian!

I’m longing for Narnia.  Because one day, I will see Christ face to face.  And I will fall on my knees and worship the Lion who saved me.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV)

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