At Arm’s Length…

This week I’ve been listening to Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis – the dramatized audio book by Radio Family Theatre. If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know that I’ve had a love affair with Narnia going on since 1980 – at age 16, when I was first introduced to The Chronicles of Narnia.

As I’ve mentioned before – I have been going through a – well, I guess I’d call it – difficult, season of life. I mentioned last week that I’ve been through all sorts of emotions as I’ve gone through this difficult season. The one thing that I have guarded my heart against is this:

Holding my God…

…my Lord

…My Master

…My Sovereign

…My Savior

at arms’ length.

I don’t ever want to be anywhere but nestled deep into the sweet and precious embrace He offers without reserve.

As I was listening to Prince Caspian I thought once again, “Why Susan?! Why?” (Susan Pevensie, of course – Queen of Narnia.) For Susan was told at the end of this story that she would never return to Narnia. In fact, during the course of this story – she is slow to believe and quick to encourage others to follow suit; and not only that – opposes and even belittles Lucy for standing firm in her convictions and commitment to obedience to Aslan. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader mention is made of the fact that Susan had begun to refer to the Pevensie children’s adventures in Narnia as nothing but a childhood imagining. And in The Last Battle she is conspicuously absent.

“How Susan?”

It dawned on me there could be any number of explanations – but when it comes right down to it – it’s really all about the fact that Susan simply chose to hold Aslan and the things of Narnia at arms’ length.

She chose to not believe.

She chose to lose the childlike wonder over her love for Aslan and Narnia.

She chose to distance herself from those who could encourage her.

She chose to focus on the temporal – rather than the eternal.

Even when she knew – deep down inside – when she truly believed Aslan was there – calling her to follow Him – she chose NOT to believe. Isn’t it easy to follow Susan’s example along the gorge – when Aslan is revealed to those who chose to focus on the daunting prospects – rather than to follow in obedience – because it seemed too frightening.

“Lucy…” Susan began, “…I see him now. I’m sorry.”

“That’s all right.” Lucy humbly responds.

“But I’ve been far worse than you know. I really believed it was Him. He.. I mean, yesterday, when He warned us not to go down to the fir wood. And I really believed it was him tonight – I mean deep down inside. But I just really wanted to get out of the woods…”

Isn’t it funny how easy it is to talk ourselves into keeping Him at arms’ length?

Isn’t it funny how we convince ourselves that it’s so much more complex than it really is?

That it’s not really all about us. It’s all about HIM.

Finally – face to face… He spoke.

“Susan, come closer.” Aslan directed.

“Oh Aslan.” Susan responds.

“You have listened to your fears, child. Come, let me breathe on you…. Forget them.”

He is just waiting to do that very thing for us – Father God – isn’t He? Just waiting to love, to forgive, to fill up where there is emptiness, to bring peace and comfort where chaos once reigned.

In short – I want to always have the heart that is open to God. (As Matt so aptly discussed this morning.) I don’t want to keep Him at arms’ length.

…and I never want to be so “grown up” that I lose the wonder over the beauty of the Good News that has saved my very soul – and so thoroughly given me the only Hope that is worth having.

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“It’s not really Narnia, you know…”

Lucy began, somewhat tearfully, in response to the news from Aslan that she and Edmund would not be returning to Narnia, “…it’s YOU! We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live never meeting you?”

“But you shall meet me, dear one.” Aslan responds.

“Are you there, in our world, too?” Edmund asks, with a tinge of joy in his voice.

“I AM! But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason you were brought to Narnia. That by knowing me here a little, you may know me better there!”

I’ve been listening to “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” again this week.

Do you ever have seasons of your life where you feel like you just need to be reminded of the fact that HE is here – in our world? I needed that this week.

What great lengths He’s gone to – to romance me.

To embrace me.

To forgive me – even though there’s simply no good reason to.

To redeem me.

To hide me in the shadow of His wing.

To hide little reminders of His nearness – everywhere I turn – if only I will stop half a second to recognize them.

Just moments before Lucy’s exclamation, this is the exchange had taken place:

“What? Is there a way into Aslan’s country from our world, too?”

“There is a way into my country from all worlds!” He exclaims as he reveals Himself – changing from the beautiful spotless Lamb that had served them the best breakfast they’d ever eaten, into the Lion they’ve known and loved.

“Aslan, will you tell us how to get into your country from our world?”

“I shall be telling you all the time! But I will not tell you how long or short the way will be, only that it lies across a river. But do not fear that, for I am the Great Bridge Builder!”

Do you just love that? I do!

While I love Narnia – and have undoubtedly spent far too much time thinking about how amazing it would have been to be one of those lucky Pevensie children in my youth! – I’m so thankful that Narnia is just a shadow of Heaven. That Aslan is just a representation of The Way, The Truth, and the Life. And that I don’t have to rely on magic to pull me into a magical land to know The Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

I love that as Aslan sends them back into their own world, at the end of this book, there’s the Lion’s roar, a flurry and brush of the Lion’s golden mane, a mixture of scenes – the land they’re being sent from, into the world they belong in – and the Lion’s kiss on their foreheads. What sweeter benediction could there be?

Remember how – after death works backward in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” and Susan and Lucy were in the courtyard of the White Witch’s castle – and Aslan was breathing upon those creatures she’d turned to stone? Do you remember how as they’re reanimated? By the breath of the Lion?

Oh – Breathe on me, Lamb of God! Please! Breathe on me! Keep my heart turned to you!

I guess that’s why I keep listening to The Chronicles of Narnia. How can I not?

I once fell in love…

I was age 16 – away working at a camp for the summer in the Seattle area – far from home – and had a weekend stretching in front of me with lots of free time – and not much to do. I was a little bummed. A friend said, “Well, you could read the Chronicles of Narnia again…”

“The Chronicles of what?” I asked.

“You know, “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe” is the first one…” she prompted.

I looked at her blankly.

Her mouth dropped open and she held her hand out and said, “WAIT RIGHT HERE!” She dropped everything (literally) and went running full speed ahead toward her cabin. She came back at same break-neck speed with a cube-like thing clutched to her breast, and completely out of breath. “Here!” She panted, shoving said cube my direction. I grabbed it, looked at it, and realized it was a set of books. Seven books, to be exact.

Little did I know that day all those years ago that my life would be inalertably changed because of my friend’s generosity.

I spent the day sprawled out on a blanket – part of the day on the floating dock at the beach, the other part in the shade of a tree not far from my own cabin – plowing through the first few books. (Have I ever mentioned I’m a voracious reader?) By the time the weekend was over I’d read all seven books – and fallen completely head over heels in love…

with Aslan… of course!

with Narnia… duh!

with the beauty, the poetry, the symbolism, the justice, the symmetry.

So much to love.

Do you know – that here, nearly 30 years later (it’s true, I’m turning 46 this year!) I still re-read the Chronicles? I’ll be honest, I’m a little ADD, and at one point in time I came across an amazing thing – audiobooks! – and found a lovely set by Radio Family Theatre of the Chronicles – not just narrated – but acted out – and purchased it. (Here’s a link – if you have children – buy it! If you love beauty – buy it! If you have any kind of road trip in your future – buy it!) And, of course, I’ve seen the recently produced movies of “The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe” and “Prince Caspian” – which honestly, are good – but in my opinion, stray a little too much from the original.

Last weekend I attended the Beth Moore Conference here in Portland with two very dear friends. It wasn’t easy for me to go – me in a cast, needing to use a walker and a scooter to get around and through the crowd of 7300 women there, and needing to keep my foot elevated. I was a little tempted to bail. I’m so glad I didn’t.

The past nearly 8 weeks – following the surgery on my ankle, and my time needing to allow my body to heal and graft the donor materials into my body – I’ve felt a little… I don’t know. isolated? Well, it hasn’t just been just since then. Do you ever feel like your heart is getting tired? weary? hard? isolated? And worse – that you don’t mind?

I think that conference last weekend (my first exposure to Beth Moore – shhh… I’m a Precepts girl! I know, Kay and Beth are BFF!) was the beginning of the thaw.

Spring has been helping with the thaw, too, I think.

This afternoon as I was sitting on my comfy bed knitting away, the movie of “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe” came on TV. (Have I mentioned yet that I’ve seen more TV in the last 8 weeks than I have in the entirety of my lifetime combined prior to this surgery?!) I thought, “Ah… Narnia.”

Aren’t visual reminders a sweet thing?

I was reminded a new of some important life lessons…

I don’t ever want to be a land or country that falls under the alluring spell of a temptress that turns me to stone cold.

I want to be like the trees – once awakened – who exude beauty, grace, and peace!

I want to be breathed on by Aslan – daily – just in case my heart is hardening.

I want to remember when I see Spring coming to life around me – here in my beautiful corner of the world – that I want my heart to be growing and maturing and bearing fruit.

I want to have an open invitation to bury my hands into the golden mane of the Great Lion – knowing that there is nothing to fear because I have been rescued.

I want to never lose my fear of Aslan – that tinge of it at least – because, you know, He’s not a tame lion.

I want to live my life expectantly – knowing that the Son of the High King is working things together – and will one day arrive.

I know – totally off topic. Not chicken or garden related (much). But it is real life related – for me, anyway. Sorry to be so random. But I’m feeling pretty darn thankful for Spring right now!