I want to tell you a story.
When I was about three years old, my father started reading “The Chronicles of Narnia” to me. I am not kidding. He adapted it to my level, of course, so that my young mind could grasp the unfolding drama. The best part was that he used voices. He even used British accents. It was great. To this day I can still hear echoes when I re-read them.
I don’t remember the very first time I heard it, but I do remember becoming absolutely captivated at a very young age. At five, I was already imitating Lucy, my favorite character (besides Aslan)—I dressed up as her for (my last) Halloween that year. There was something about the stories that absolutely enchanted me.
Ever since then, I’ve been looking for a way into Narnia.
Seriously, I could write pages and pages on how much C. S. Lewis’ stories influenced me. Actually, I did write pages—in college I wrote a paper on it.
His depiction of Jesus as a Lion—wow. Brilliance. More than that, it was inspired. Aslan is both ferocious and tender, depending on the situation. He knows when to whisper and when to roar, when to use his claws and when to velvet them. There was something about this duality, this supreme wisdom that sunk deep into my psyche. Aslan’s supreme justice and supreme mercy combined to create a God that is seldom preached from our pulpits.
I was also deeply impressed by the intimate friendship Lucy and Aslan had. Lewis would often write that Lucy “understood his moods” or correctly interpreted his growls. She seemed somehow to be most in tune with him, and when she is told she is too old to come back to Narnia, she sobs that it’s Him she’ll miss, not the country. At that point in my young life I had a very similar connection to God—innocent, full of trust and love and the assurance that He cared about me.
I tell ya, Life can really take that out of you. It’s amazing to me how much that belief has been assaulted in the past decade or so of my life. That complete trust we have when we are children is attacked as we get older; it is shaken, just like our faith in everything else around us eventually is.
But no matter how old I get, I am taken back to that sense of wonder when I re-read “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” In the past couple of years, I have had the privilege of reading it to children. I read it to a group of (older) students at a preschool a couple of years ago, and just a few months ago to my Chinese Church kids. Yes, I use voices and fake accents. I love seeing the kids get into the story…and I love getting myself back into it. I especially want them to know the “real” story before the movie comes out in December.
I know it will be really good, very well done, probably spectacular from all that I’ve seen of it already…but nothing will ever live up to the images I have in my head. They will change things, because that’s what movie people do to books. I could write a whole other post of my disgust on that topic. And because it’s something that means so much to me, I am trying to prepare myself now for the inevitable disappointments. (Hey, I had them with LOTR, too, and those are like my favorite movies of all time.) And I am trying to overlook the hype which now surrounds the movie and stay positive, knowing that no matter what happens with the movie, there will always be the original story.
The point is, I probably am who I am today in a large part because twenty-three years ago my dad read me a thirty year old book written by deceased English author. I would not be J. M. Richards, I would not have written “Found Phoebe,” if it weren’t for my dad, and Clive Staples Lewis. That sounds like a big thing to say. But I really believe it. The love of Narnia opened up for me a whole desire for more adventures into other lands—and for adventure in general, the longing to be part of something bigger. And the symbolism, which I was able to grasp even as a child, showed me that other stories might also carry a deeper meaning.
This is something which has come to fruition in me only in recent years; but I recognize when and where the seeds were planted (and subsequently watered in large part by John Eldredge). I look back in amazement that something so beautifully simple had such a profound effect on me.
Well, I told you I could write pages on this. I could mention the beautiful Chris Rice song, “Run the Earth and Watch the Sky” [thanks to Brianne for introducing me to that song] where he mentions Aslan and the Pevensies as part of his adolescence. I could go off on a tangent and talk about when I went to Chicago, to Wheaton, and saw (touched!!!) C.S. Lewis’ desk at a special library dedicated to him and six other British authors (including Tolkien and George MacDonald). But really this post is just a tribute; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and How it Changed My Entire Life, by J. M. Richards. Or something like that. If I sound fanatical, even evangelistic about it…well, I don’t apologize. I can only hope that someday you, too, will experience the wonder, and find your own adventurous encounter with the untamed God. Y