In between all my meetings and work and keeping comfortably busy, these last few weeks have been devoted to rest and "renewal of the mind" and one way that has looked has been reading. And oh, I have missed it. First, a confession: although I love every book I've ever read by C. S. Lewis, I haven't actually technically read any of the Chronicles of Narnia. They were read to me in the fifth grade and even now, reading through them, I haven't remembered much at all. But they've been incredible. I've got a lovely mismatched collection of the series--I missing three or four of them (have been borrowing the others) but they're all different printings and even different publishers. Going on a tangent for a second, it has been breaking my heart in some ways to get rid of so many books before I leave (but also wonderful, because what better gift to give away than a book!), and I don't know if I'll be able to bring all the ones I want with me. We'll see.
I'm in the middle of Prince Caspian now and so far I think it's probably my least favorite. I think the best has been The Horse and His Boy. I finished it at work the other day and toward the end there is this amazing part where the main character, Shasta, is riding his horse along in the dark and it's cold and foggy and he's feeling very alone and suddenly something much bigger than him is walking alongside him. It tells Shasta to tell him his sorrows. And he does, he tells him about everything, about his whole life and everything leading up to that moment. And then it says:
"'I was the lion.' And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. '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 while 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.'"
I was the lion you do not remember. This has been a near constant reminder these last months, this whole summer. Life is hard sometimes and it always has been and I remember even back in April having a conversation with someone about how I knew in my head God had been with me and I'd say it but I had very distinct memories of wondering if he was really there and feeling like he wasn't at all, not anywhere at all. And as always there is the process of moving the things I understand in my head to the part of my heart that causes me to live like it's true instead just knowing it's true. And that is a big gap. And the truth is that life is difficult, I'm certain that every one of us has moments we thought of just then. But the bigger truth is that, while maybe we don't remember--I didn't--the lion was with us.
There are some other thoughts that have been floating around in my head regarding all of this recently, and a friend and I had a conversation about some of it a few days ago. We talked about the pressure to be shiny-happy Christians all the time, to jump right to 'God is good' and skip over 'this hurts' or 'I don't understand and I definitely don't like it' or just 'why?' I don't want to undervalue learning to trust God in the places we don't understand. But my friend said something about how it almost cheapens the whole thing to not even recognize how hard it was, to jump right to God being the answer no matter what without the process of getting to that answer. I'm not quite sure how to articulate any of this, and it's not coming out as well as I'd like to (also, friend: I'm trying to remember the gist of the conversation so if this isn't quite it, let me know).
Where I'm coming to, however, is that I think maybe God wants us to meet him in these hard places, to wrestle with him, even. I think of David: "How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? ...Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; ...But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me." (from Psalm 13) There are lots of other examples, and this isn't just for when things are hard but when they are good as well.
And then we look back (because we have looked--we haven't just closed our eyes) we see the places the lion was, here portrayed as the comforter and protector and also the one who gives us strength, even if it was scary. Aslan is on the move, these days. And now it's just trying to watch for him.