Aslan Is On the Move
Do you believe in fairy tales?
When C.S. Lewis wrote The Chronicles of Narnia, he wrote to Lucy Barfield that even though she was a child when he began writing The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, by the time of its publishing, she would be far too old to read it. “But some day,” he wrote, “you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”
STEP INTO THE WARDROBE
Today, we’re stepping into the wardrobe.
We’re returning to Narnia, to the land fallen under the spell of the White Witch, to the forest frozen by a hundred years of winter.
Here’s hoping we have grown old enough to re-read The Chronicles of Narnia, to step back inside the fairy tales themselves and explore once again.
When Lucy Pevensie stepped into the wardrobe, she found a new world inside, much bigger than the wardrobe itself.
Contemplation, which is required for healing, is like that. It changes how you see everything, because you can finally begin to see what is.
Inside the wardrobe, when Mr. Tumnus spilled his plan to kidnap Lucy and take her to the White Witch, he exclaims, “Why, it is she that has got all Narnia under her thumb. It’s she that makes it always winter. Always winter and never Christmas; think of that!”
When he thought about it—and felt the tension of what he was doing, compared to what he knew he wanted to do—Mr. Tumnus realized that perhaps the role of kidnapper of humans wasn’t a noble calling. The world around him might have been stuck in a hundred years of winter, but the spell was already beginning to break. His reality was changing. Maybe serving the White Witch was not the path to peace in Narnia.
American politics is caught under the same spell of endless winter.
Here’s what I mean: think about this presidential election cycle, or any of them for that matter. Think about the desires we all share for a president to rise up who’s one of us, who understands what it is to be American, who knows our place in the world, who will lead with justice into years of peace.
Think about how we project all of our desires for a perfect America onto our presidential candidates: we force them into weird politico-ego speech, where they constantly have to prove silly non-points about whether they will be “ready” on day one to pick up the red phone, or if they will stand up to Russia, or Wall Street, or stand with Main Street, or whether they picked themselves up by their boot straps (what on earth does this phrase mean??) and are now “successful” as adults, and how much cash they have on hand and whether or not it was more or less than what was “expected.” We demand that they stay in perfect health, despite flying back and forth across the country, sometimes to foreign countries, all to prove they are capable of filling our desires to be impressed.
I am not saying qualifications and policies don’t matter. They do. What I am saying is that we bring our insecurities and fears into presidential politics, we vote for someone because they have charisma and make us feel good (about what, we cannot say).
Finding the perfect president isn’t working out for us. Each election cycle, we think we’ll get there, but it never comes. We are unsatisfied, and all the layers of expectations we create that must be filled for us to be impressed are becoming unhuman. We wind up grasping for power we don’t know how to use.
When Edmund followed his sister Lucy into Narnia, he had the unfortunate pleasure of finding favor with the White Witch herself, after appearing at first to be a fool. (p. 28).
“And what, pray, are you?” said the Lady, looking hard at Edmund.
“I’m—I’m—my name’s Edmund,” said Edmund rather awkwardly. He did not like the way she looked at him.
The Lady frowned. “Is that how you address a Queen?” she asked, looking sterner than ever.
“I beg your pardon, your Majesty, I didn’t know,” said Edmund.
“Not know the Queen of Narnia?” cried she. “Ha! You shall know us better hereafter. But I repeat—what are you?”
Who among us working in politics hasn’t responded—when our position of power feels threatened—with a shout of “Not know the Queen of Narnia?” I’m laughing a bit inside even as I write this, wishing I could have been this transparent about my ego, this obvious when I worked on Capitol Hill. I wish I could go back and walk into situations where no one cared who I was and perhaps with my best attempt at a British accent drop a loud “Not know the Queen of Narnia?” in the center of the room.
Presidential election cycles have become a parade of grownups demanding attention from a populace who demands to be impressed—and both are rooted in the same deep insecurity that led the White Witch to cast a spell of a hundred years of winter over all of Narnia.
Inside the contemplative “wardrobe” of American politics, it is obvious that what we often accept as the established way of operating is melting. The world is beginning to thaw. Spring is coming. Aslan is on the move.
Remember your fairy tales, because if we journey back two thousand years—by reading eyewitness accounts—there appears to be a God-man who rose from the dead. I’m not talking about stories. I’m talking about eyewitness accounts—they saw him, they touched him.
When we recognize that the search for the perfect leader is futile, we can finally recognize that there is a perfect King. While we celebrate his birth at Christmas, the irony in our world is that every day is Christmas—every day of our lives we are journeying to the Stone Table, to meet Aslan.
We have a King who will return, who will restore all things.
In We Shall See God (p. 107), Randy Alcorn describes our King:
God the Father, the ruler of Heaven, sits on the throne with a sealed scroll in his right hand. What’s sealed—with seven seals, to avoid any possibility of the document being tampered with—is the Father’s will, his plan for the distribution and management of his estate—the Earth, which includes its people. God intended for the world to be ruled by humans. But who will come forward to open the document and receive the inheritance?
John writes, “I wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside” (Revelation 5:4, NIV).
Then of course, as the scene unfolds, Jesus is found worthy to be the King.
THE ADVENTURE INSIDE
Remember your fairy tales, because the wardrobe door opens without any effort on the part of the Pevensies. But once inside Narnia, adventure awaits. Inside the Kingdom of Heaven ruled by Jesus, we will live life to the full.
If Aslan is on the move—if we have a King who will restore all things—then how do we live in the economy of grace and love… when we actually live in an economy of buy and sell, work and earn?
When the children discover that Edmund has left the Beavers’ house to go to the White Witch, they want to chase after him, right into the witch’s palace, into her garden of stone statues. Mrs. Beaver warns them that they should, in fact, stay as far away from following Edmund as possible. (p. 81-82).
“Oh, can no one help us?” wailed Lucy.
“Only Aslan,” said Mr. Beaver, “we must go and meet him. That’s our only chance now.”
We have to learn to give up our salvation projects, knowing we can’t save ourselves, whether we are the traitors, sold out to the White Witch, or the righteous ones, trying to save Narnia. Because if we don’t, if we never let the gospel transform us, everything devolves into a weird argument in a beaver’s house about who wants to save Edmund the most.
The answer for us is so much better.
The adventure for us is to become Kings and Queens. Following Aslan, or following Jesus, includes working to restore what’s broken in this world. I love thinking about this in light of politics—we are called to fill the roles of Kings and Queens! We are called to fill the four thrones at Cair Paravel!
The freedom inside the “wardrobe” of following Jesus is staggering! If you’re like me, you’ll find that when you grasp a vision for freedom that’s a lot bigger than our talking points (in politics and religion), the normal day-to-day in politics will seem like a bad fiction novel turned into an even worse movie, and what’s true and beautiful (you know intuitively what I mean) will be a kind of epic race where everybody doesn’t just get a medal but actually wins, where you can run forever and not grow tired.
Finally, as we work to make life-giving changes to our work culture, communication, and personal well-being, we can actually do so from a point of rest, without making moral pronouncements over the culture because we aren’t the ones who called us to this work.
There is another who will judge. (From pp. 136-137):
“Sire, there is a messenger from the enemy who craves audience.”
“Let him approach,” said Aslan.
The leopard went away and soon returned leading the Witch’s Dwarf.
“What is your message, Son of Earth?” asked Aslan.
“The Queen of Narnia and Empress of the Lone Islands desires a safe conduct to come and speak with you,” said the Dwarf, “on a matter which is as much to your advantage as to hers.”
“Queen of Narnia, indeed!” said Mr. Beaver. “Of all the cheek—”
“Peace, Beaver,” said Aslan. “All names will soon be restored to their proper owners. In the meantime we will not dispute about noises.”
When Aslan moves, all is set right. When we decide to follow Jesus, we are called to restore what’s broken—we can live and love deeply. It’s a new adventure you have to come to on your own, with your eyes wide open, your senses fully alive—which is, perhaps, why you should remember your fairy tales.
WEEKLY ACTION ITEM:
Step into the wardrobe, and contemplate how the story of a risen King can reshape how you view everything. What would an economy of grace shake up in your work? How can you work to bring healing in your specific setting? If you’re in charge of a team, how can you focus the work specifically on restoration for a hurting world?
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