I suspect it’s true for most people that when it comes to the arts (music, books, etc.), or even sports, if we’ve met an artist, author, athlete, etc., we tend to be much more interested in, vested in, and appreciative of that person and their gifts/words. Likewise, the more closely we follow that person, the more we tend to remain engaged with their work as time goes on; when we cease following that person closely, the more likely we are to lose interest.
This has been on my mind as a result of a conversation with someone about some books I picked up with Christmas money this year – resources to open up deeper understanding in Bible study. (I’ll explore some of those books in other posts). As I was describing the resources I’d picked up, one response from this person was, “…so you got a bunch of boring books”. Now, be assured, this response was not intended as a slight – it was just an honest reaction.
Part of my initial instinct was to respond with, “No, you don’t understand – these resources will help me to go deep into scripture, to better learn and understand the truths of God!”. But a part of me understands that person’s reaction, because I’ve been there. Even though I’ve taken my faith (more or less) seriously since my college days, there have been long stretches of my life where I’ve gotten distracted and have lost interest in reading God’s word. I may have had a “mountain-top experience” here and there where I’d get back into Bible reading for a short while, but I’d eventually allow other priorities to take over. I’d often read other books centered directly or indirectly around Christianity/theology – which is all fine and good in proper measure – but I had little desire to actually read scripture (apart from being filtered through an occasional 3rd party topical Bible study writer, where scripture was used almost as an after-thought to support the writer’s thesis). I lacked a desire to go to the ultimate Source.
In the midst of my distractions I’ve forgotten that I’ve met the Author.
I firmly believe that the evil one (call him the devil, Satan, whatever) is real. And I believe that one of his primary strategies is to do anything and everything he can to distract believers away from direct engagement with the word of God. He wants to convince us that it’s not really that important – that it’s kind of dry, and not really relevant today. If he can distract us long enough, and far enough away, he might even convince us that it’s not even true any longer.
In C. S. Lewis’ ‘The Silver Chair’, Eustace and his friend Jill (two children from our world) are pulled into the world of Narnia. Early in the story, through foolish actions of her own, Jill ends up alone atop a high cliff with the great lion Aslan. Jill has never met Aslan, and is terrified – as we all would be – and will be – when we encounter the person of God face to face.
Jill is given a task by Aslan – to find a prince that has been missing for many years, and that everyone presumes is dead. Eventually, through many difficulties, and missteps, and failures, the children discover that the prince has been held captive, and under an enchantment, deep underground by a “queen” (who in true form is a serpent, with plans to overthrow Narnia and take it as her own). Just after the children find the prince and free him of the enchantment, the queen returns to find them all together. Rather than respond in a manner that would give away her true evil nature, she calmly throws a handful of green dust into the fireplace, causing an enchanting aroma, and begins playing a soothing melody on a lyre – all the while softly telling the group that there is – and never was – any such thing as Narnia or Aslan:
“Narnia?” she said. “Narnia? I have often heard your Lordship utter that name in your ravings. Dear Prince, you are very sick. There is no land called Narnia…Come, all of you. Put away these childish tricks. I have work for you all in the real world. There is no Narnia, no Overworld, no sky, no sun, no Aslan. And now, to bed all. And let us begin a wiser life tomorrow. But, first, to bed; to sleep; deep sleep, soft pillows, sleep without foolish dreams.”
The enchantment very nearly works. But at the last minute, the group – by invoking the name of Aslan – is able to overcome the spell, and the serpent is slain.
Early in the story, atop the cliff, Aslan had given Jill instructions, and a series of signs, to heed and watch out for. But she got so distracted by the journey’s difficulties, by desires for comfort, and by her own pride, that she forgot them, and it made the journey much more difficult, more perilous, and nearly disastrous. The same happens with God’s word.
And so I issue this challenge to myself as much as anyone: Read the Word. Learn it. Know it. Keep it fresh in your mind.
Aslan gives Jill this admonishment as she starts her journey:
“…remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs. And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.”
May it be so with us.
Purchase ‘The Silver Chair’:
From christianbook.com: The Silver Chair, Softcover
From Amazon: The Silver Chair
Purchase the entire Chronicles of Narnia:
From christianbook.com: The Chronicles of Narnia: 7-Volume Slipcased Softcover Set
From Amazon: The Chronicles of Narnia, 7 Volume Set
But please, for the love of all that is good and holy, read them in publication order rather than the order of the set – the stories make more sense that way:
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
- Prince Caspian
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
- The Silver Chair
- The Horse and His Boy
- The Magician’s Nephew
- The Last Battle