Saturday, March 19, 2016
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
One of the things I'm doing for Lent is instead of listening to the radio in the car, I'm listening to a CD audiobook edition of The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. I was telling an English teacher friend of mine, who actually teaches the books at our school, that I was listening to it, and she asked me which book was my favorite. I had difficulty picking one, so I thought I would write about what I liked about each one.
WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!
These posts are intended for those who have already read the books and would like to reflect on them, so I will be discussing key plot points that will likely be spoilers for those who don't know the story.
I first read The Chronicles when I was in high school. Within the past year, I had converted from atheism to Christianity, and I was eagerly finding out all I could about my new faith. My approach to Christianity had been mostly intellectual, and although I recognized the importance of Jesus as the one who accomplished our salvation, it wasn't until I read about Aslan in the Narnia books that my love for Jesus began to develop.
I know that many people have trouble understanding the idea of having a "personal relationship" with Jesus. The fact is, Jesus is a person, and he wants us to relate to him as a person. He wants our friendship. He wants us to talk to him and tell him our deepest needs. He also wants us to listen to him. For some people, Narnia may be what they need to grow in their friendship with Christ.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (LWW) was not only the first Narnia book written, but it is the foundation on which the others are built. It is unfortunate that there are editions of The Chronicles now that put The Magician's Nephew as the first book because although it portrays events that happened earlier, it is clearly meant to provide a background for a story already known. LWW introduces the Pevensie children, around which the seven books revolve, and it has the central act of redemption that not only saves the life of one of the children, Edmund, but also saves Narnia from the reign of the White Witch. This salvation ushers in the "golden age" of Narnia, where the four children reign as kings and queens in the capital, Cair Paravel, until the time comes when they are returned to our world. This salvation from the White Witch and resulting golden age is referred to in all of the other books.
The central event of LWW is the sacrifice of Aslan at the hands of the White Witch on the stone table, and the resurrection that follows. I think it is a mistake to get too theological about this event. Although it is meant to refer to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, there are aspects of Aslan's story that don't line up quite right with the story of Jesus. Rather, the value of this story is how it can help us to contemplate the love of Jesus when we see the love of Aslan portrayed. It is the power of fiction to take us out of our own world and place us in another setting that helps us see the truths of our world in a different light. I had been numb to the image of Jesus on the cross, but when I saw this powerful lion allowing himself to be bound, shaved, and executed, especially when it is portrayed through the eyes of the children who love him, I got a sense of the sorrow of the crucifixion like never before. Then when the girls later find he has come back to life, the joy and triumph I felt continues to be a part of the joy I now feel when I contemplate Jesus' resurrection.
The triumph that is felt in Aslan's resurrection is a mood that permeates the latter half of the book as the witch's power fades, and Spring returns to Narnia. I think Lewis wants us to adopt this triumphant mood in our lives. Although many struggles and trials are ahead, the power of evil is failing, and Jesus is the king of kings.