I think C.S. Lewis is amazing. I love how broad his writings are, from children’s fiction, to adult science fiction, to non-fiction works on the Christian faith. I have never read any work of his that I didn’t like, but I have a special fondness in my heart for his Narnia series. My mom began reading those to me when I must have been no older than three, and I have read the entire Chronicles many times over in the years since. I don’t remember when I fist realized that the books were actually much more than children’s stories—they have a depth that I have found many times to be quite profound! I’m not to the point of thinking of them as works of philosophy, but I certainly take the stance that any adult can glean some amazing things from the simplicity of the Narnia stories.
I can’t choose a favorite, but one that has been on my mind much as of late is The Horse and His Boy. In this book, Shasta, a boy who from the time he was orphaned as an infant has endured a most unfortunate life, is on a journey to discover who he really is. The story centers around him escaping from his evil adopted father and setting off for the land of Narnia. From the very first night his journey begins, he faces adversity. Lions chase him the first night, jackals threaten to attack a few nights later as he sleeps among tombs, he endures heat and thirst as he makes and arduous trek through the desert, and finally, he is chased by lions once again when he is almost in sight of his goal. To top all of this off, once he finally reaches safety, he is told that he must continue on after no rest to warn others of impending danger. It is at this point that all of the misery of his life and his recent circumstances settle down on him and begins to do something I can completely sympathize with: He starts to feel profoundly sorry for himself. This is when the story gets good, because it is as he is sitting their soaking in his sorrow and crying unashamedly, that he encounters Aslan.
The great lion is invisible to him at first, and Shasta simply hears a large “something” walking beside him. After experiencing a gamut of terrified emotions, Shasta finally works up the courage to speak, and when he does, Aslan is ready to answer. The first thing the Lion says to him after reassuring Shasta that he is not a ghost is, “Tell me your sorrows.” He doesn’t have to ask twice as Shasta is more than ready to unload the long list of “unfair” circumstances in his life that have left him as he deems himself “the most unfortunate boy in the world.” The lion replies, “I do not call you unfortunate,” to which Shasta quickly questions him by asking him if it is not unfortunate to encounter so many lions in one journey. The lion’s answer is my favorite part of the book. He says, “There was only one lion. I was the lion. I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you as you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.” It is not until this moment that Shasta is able to see how even in the midst of the terrible situations he had found himself in throughout his journey, the lion had been there, orchestrating the events for an ultimate good.
I can’t say that I have had one moment of revelation like the one Shasta experienced where the total picture has become clear all at once, but I have already had so many moments in this journey where God has shown me that what I thought was unfair, unfortunate or unjust was part of His bigger plan. I can tell you that I have felt like listing out my troubles on many occasions. Sometimes along the way I have asked Jesus, “Why can’t I just have a “normal” pregnancy? Why does this come so easily for so many others, but not for me? Why do I have to go through the emotional and physical strains of pregnancy without getting to experience a lifetime of the pay off of having a child?” The list can go on, and it doesn’t take long for a pity party to spring up and become all consuming. This is why I love this passage so much. First of all, it reminds me that just as Aslan wanted to hear Shasta’s troubles, Jesus is patient and listening when I cry out to him of my troubles. He is not put off or annoyed when I express my emotions to Him because He, more than anyone else, understands and His patience with me is limitless. At the same time, He also gently helps to nudge me from my pity by revealing Himself to me. It’s not always clear at the time, but I know that God gives glimpses into His provision so that I can see with concrete clarity how He is faithfully carrying me even when I feel like I am alone. When Shasta was at his lowest point, Aslan came to him and opened his eyes to the reality of the provision and love he had been pouring out on him from the very beginning. Jesus does the same with us. He is not put-off by my honesty, but He desires for me not to live in emotions that will lead to bitterness and self-consumed pity. He doesn’t owe it to me to allow me to see how He is working, but so often He shows me anyway. His grace is unmerited, and I am so grateful for it.