Further Up and Further In

The other day I finished reading the Chronicles of Narnia series. I read the whole thing beginning to end over the past six months and never in my life have I ever been so taken with a fictional idea or place. As silly as it sounds, I have been yearning for the mountains, the sea, the hills, the forests. I want to dance around the fire to the beat of the dwarfs' drums with the satyrs and the fauns. I want to feel the spirits of the trees and trade verses with the horses, eagles, badgers, foxes, beavers, sparrows, rabbits, and mice. I want to go on adventures with Peter, Edmund, Lucy, (NOT Susan), Eustace, Jill, Digory, and Polly. I want to feel the warm breath of the Great Lion and hear his voice. I want to meet the kings and queens that sit enthroned at Cair Paravel and feast with them, overlooking the Eastern Sea where mermaids and fish and dolphins jump out of the water and rejoice. Can you imagine? The joy, the adventure, the warmth of the fire in the beavers' dam, the chill of the snow, the tickle of the breeze. 

I found this in a castle on the southern coast of Devon, England, and stood in front of it, waiting for Narnia to appear on the other side for longer than is probably appropriate for an adult.

I found this in a castle on the southern coast of Devon, England, and stood in front of it, waiting for Narnia to appear on the other side for longer than is probably appropriate for an adult.

I get very caught up in the words of C.S. Lewis. Each one drips with magic and thoughtfulness and wonder. The lands he describes and the emotions and textures. I can imagine no place more wonderful than the world he created. Since I was a child and read these books and heard the stories, I knew that it was all an allegory for the creation of the world, the sacrifice of Jesus, the relationship of God with His people, but reading these books as an adult is an even richer experience than I could have anticipated. As I've had to depend more and more on Jesus and His righteousness, the beauty of THAT story, of Jesus and me, has become more beautiful and believable, just like Narnia to each of the children that stumble upon it. Reading the last few pages of The Last Battle and hearing the description of each part of Narnia and the journey further up and further in as each inside is bigger than its outside, gave me so much hope, but also so much heartbreak. I mourn the reality of the fallen world. We should have been that beautiful Narnia, but we're not. We should feel no pain, but we do. I do. And as hard as that is to swallow, regardless of Narnia, it becomes so sweet at the same time. Each character wished to leave Narnia at one point, and eventually they all do. Each one had to sweat, worry, bleed, cry, fight, climb, crawl, stumble, hide, run, swim, and work before their task was done and the sweet breath of Aslan wrapped around them in perfect approval, forgiveness, and love. And even as they went back to their own world, thinking they'd never return again to the exceedingly beautiful world they so loved, there was gratitude for the grunting, sweating, crying, and worrying. Each of those things taught them something they did not yet know about themselves. EUSTACE. Can you imagine a more horrid child? And by the end, you just want to wrap your arms around him, kiss his forehead, and say "Well done, mate." And glory be, GLORY BE! Aslan works perfectly and deliberately until finally he can call each good and righteous Narnian- native or not- home to their proper place next to him as the world darkens. All hope is threatened to be overtaken too, until you move further up and further in.

Further up and further in. Is there a better call in all this world, all this life, than to move further up and further in? I don't know if you know this, but Narnia is Heaven. It's Heaven, y'all, the real one. It beckons and receives absolutely and perfectly. There is a lot of worry, blood, sweat, crying, stumbling, rejoicing, mourning, playing, dancing, and celebrating that comes first, but in the end, all the characters who Aslan smiles upon and blesses with a big Lion kiss are brought further up and further in. Each new layer to the world that has been perfected is better and richer than the last. There is no mourning or crying, except maybe joyful crying. And that's what we're bound for, you and me, when we feel Aslan's pull away from the world we thought was our own, only to find out that there's another one waiting for us. "‘Glory be!’ said the Cabby. ‘I’d ha’ been a better man all my life if I’d known there were things like this.’" Indeed, dear Cabby, indeed.

But what makes this so disheartening is the waiting. I know there's a Narnia out there. I know this world, our world, will one day be redeemed. I know that like King Caspian I may die hundreds of years before that happens, or like Jill and Eustace I'll be there when it does, more alive than could be (more or less). But does that make the waiting any easier? Not for me. Is there anything I want more than redemption of this wretched world? I don't think there is. I want freedom, courage, bliss, joy, kinship, friendship, love, all boundless and timeless. But I have to wait. And I have to believe that there is hope in a new Narnia and there is hope in a new Earth, if only we have the patience, courage, faith, and pluck to make it until then. I doubt my possession of those things quite often, but I'm reminded that I don't have to get up every day and work until sundown to make sure by the end of the day I can lift the robes of righteousness and wrap them around me. I must believe that they are always on me, head to toe, covering the blood, sweat, worry, tears, scrapes, scabs, panic, and doubt that are nullified by Jesus. By Aslan. By the Perfect One. The Ever-present One. The Alpha and the Omega. The Beginning, and most certainly the End, and everything in between. 

And here's what I imagine Cair Paravel to be.

And here's what I imagine Cair Paravel to be.

Let's Take a Break, From Us

I quit my job three months ago. It was necessary and I'm not looking back with disdain or regret or embarrassment. However, I did promise myself that I wasn't going to use this time to sloth around, as I'm prone to do. I reassured people that I wasn't going to fall and land softly on a pile of Netflix. Of course, it's taking me awhile to type this because I have Friends on in the background. Okay, foreground. But I'm having a change of heart, sort of. I love Netflix. It's been my pal the last few months. Friends, Gilmore Girls, Bob's Burgers, Portlandia, Mad Men. I like those. Netflix has those. But also, those stories don't change. I watch them over and over, which is not inherently bad, but it takes my time away from me, something I covet deeply.

But last week, I had a shift to new stories. I started back up again with the Chronicles of Narnia series and blew through them. I read three of the books in I think as many days. So much to be found there! So many pictures of God there. So many pictures of me there. My doubts, my fears, my sins. Then redemption and lessons of trust and faith, with plenty of humour (it is an English book, after all) and lovable characters to snuggle up with. The value of new stories and classic stories, for the young and the old, is immeasurable to me. The gift of imagination that each book seeps into our fingertips as we hold them is precious. The new worlds or eras we are invited into are perhaps not better or worse than our own, but supremely different and rife with adventure. Books hold more power than do television shows. Not to say that tv and movies and Netflix are not worth something and do not provide great room for engagement and story-telling, but it is no secret that books and stories on pages possess a unique ability to enchant our minds and hearts and take them soaring to new heights of creativity, imagination, intelligence, and adventure. 

So I hope to find more stories. I hope to continue to be engaged in musty pages and clean, crisp ones. I hope to escape to Narnia over and over again and smell the enchanting perfume of the Great Lion's mane and plunge my toes into the soft grass, dance with the dryads, drink and feast with Bacchus, catch a favorable wind setting forth from Cair Paravel, and brush my fingers along every blooming flower and soft pelt and hide of the Talking Animals.