As the latest installment of C. S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia hits the big screen, I am reminded that a good storyteller can get to the heart of things in a way that many descriptions of God do not. Perhaps you too still find Lewis childrens stories to be as stunning and clarifying an allegory as I do. One of my favorite scenes is in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are explaining to Peter, Susan, and Lucy about Aslan, King of Narnia.
Is–is he a man? asked Lucy.
Aslan a man! said Mrs. Beaver sternly. Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Dont you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion–the Lion, the great Lion.
Ooh! said Susan, Id thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.
That you will dearie, and no mistake, said Mrs. Beaver; if theres anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, theyre braver than most or else just silly.
Then he isnt safe? said Lucy.
Safe? said Mr. Beaver; dont you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? Course he isnt safe. But hes good. Hes the King, I tell you.
That scene is important for understanding another one in the sequel, Prince Caspian. The children do meet Aslan, and he is both awesome and kind, revered and loved. He saves the land, gifts the children, and leaves them as stewards. After an unexpected return home, the children find themselves back in Narnia at the beginning of Prince Caspian. Narnia needs its King again. Fortunately, Aslan has returned as well; unfortunately, only the youngest child, Lucy, has eyes to see him.
A circle of grass, smooth as a lawn, met her eyes with dark trees dancing all around it. And then–oh joy! For he was there: the huge Lion, shining white in the moonlight, with his huge black shadow underneath him.
But for the movement of his tail, he might have been a stone lion, but Lucy never thought of that. She never stopped to think whether he was a friendly lion or not. She rushed to him. She felt her heart would burst if she lost a moment. And the next thing she knew was that she was kissing him and putting her arms as far round his neck as she could and burying her face in the beautiful rich silkiness of his mane.
What a poignant expression of our relationship to Yahweh. One of my professors, vexed with his students flippancy about Gods presence, is fond of declaring grandiosely in his lectures, Yahweh will melt your face off! He is certainly not safe, but he is good. As we gather together in the presence of God this Lords Day, the story speaks volumes to me. But there is another part of the story that I find equally convicting. Once Lucy has seen Aslan, she must tell the others–who cannot yet see him–that she has found their King.
Now, child, said Aslan, when they had left the trees behind them, I will wait here. Go and wake the others and tell them to follow. If they will not, then you at least must follow me alone.
So our story also includes the blessing of drawing confidently near to our terribly awesome, totally good King. And so we must also go and wake the others, whether they will see Him or not.