Narnia….my daughter requested we start The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis. This book is more profound and more heartbreaking to me than any other in the series. Maybe it’s knowing that it’s the very last book and the end. Maybe it’s because of how it ends. Maybe. But really I think it’s this…..the Narnians get taken in. They are completely snowed by Shift the Ape. This particular generation of Narnian creatures have never seen Aslan in person. Most have never seen a regular lion. Not even the king. They doubt the character of the one who sang their world into existence, the one who saved all of Narnia with his very own life. They doubt that he is good, kind, loving, gracious, approachable. They believe that he really is ordering all of these dreadful things to happen-murder of talking trees, selling the beasts into slavery to their enemies, etc. And they believe he is doing it as punishment. A punishment for no apparent crime. That is what breaks my heart. That because they don’t understand his true nature from all of the available stories about their history and are deceived.
But is it the story in and of itself that has me sad? No…it’s that this is our story. Here and now on this earth. We don’t really get the true nature of our God. I think this is especially true of believers. We are quick to accept guilt, punishment, retribution, and evil as being deserved. The best example I can come up with is corporal punishment. Spanking. Many, many evangelical Christian parents believe that God has required that they cause physical harm to their very young children in order for those young children to grow up well and be able to serve God. Hmm. This particular issue is a huge turn-off to many nonbelievers. “Why does your ‘loving God’ demand obedience and beating of children?” Good question. He doesn’t. Not really. Not at all. It’s as outrageous as a donkey parading around in a lion-skin. His character has been distorted, his true nature has been obscured and thus, many are taken in by something that was never intended. Even the stories about “our history” with God have been taken out of context and used for personal gain in some fashion. The scope of how to parent well is to guide them, correct them verbally, give direction, rescue when needed, love and love some more, give grace. I try to imagine Aslan beating one of the Narnians for a mistake. It’s ridiculous. He didn’t even do that to Edmund, who was a traitor for the White Witch. They had a deep conversation about it instead. Did he smack Digory in book 6 for bringing the evil witch to his new world? No, he showed him what he must do to correct the problem. What’s my point? Before we do something in “the name of God” let’s stop and think if this is actually true to his real nature. Is it love without condition? Is it grace when least deserved? Otherwise, let’s own our actions as ours and not blame God for our mistakes. Back to the spanking example-if you want to beat your children in the hopes they will wind up to be wonderful people-own it as your own doing. Not God’s directions.
Time and again I return to this series of books because even after 24 years of reading, I am still learning, still discovering and finding myself in the story. I pray that I will be brave, that I can do the task in front of me well, that I can love to the end, that I will shy away from cynicism.