In my recent reflections on the 50th anniversary of C. S. Lewis’ death, I focused on the influence Lewis has had through works like Mere Christianity. Now I’ve asked RTB editor and Take Two blogger Maureen Moser to offer her thoughts on Lewis’ impact through his popular fiction.
By Maureen Moser
When Ken asked me to write this post, my mind whirled with possibilities. As with his nonfiction, C. S. Lewis’ fantasy worlds offer a rich, almost unlimited source of material for pondering, discussing, and reflecting. I’d finally narrowed down the options to one topic when tragedy struck dear friends of mine.
In one month, my friends lost two loved ones. The first loss was due to cancer and so wasn’t a surprise, though it was sad nonetheless. But the second loss was completely unexpected and heart-wringing. As I grieved for them, I couldn’t help asking God where He was in all of this. Even as I formed the question, a scene from The Magician’s Nephew arose in my mind, in which Aslan calls young Digory Kirke to task for bringing the White Witch into the newly created Narnia.
But when he [Digory] said “Yes,” he thought of his Mother, and he thought of the great hopes he had had, and how they were all dying away, and a lump came in his throat and tears in his eyes, and he blurted out:
“But please, please—won’t you—can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?” Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great front feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.
“My son, my son,” said Aslan. “I know. Grief is great. Only you and I in this land know that yet. Let us be good to one another.”1
This passage makes me cry each time I read it because Lewis, who lost his own mother when he was about Digory’s age, so beautifully illustrates God’s great heart. Our Creator is not an unfeeling entity, devoid of empathy and detached from human experiences. He feels pain and pleasure, experiences compassion and anger, and empathizes deeply with us in our suffering.
I’ve been rereading the Gospel of Matthew lately and this time around I’ve noticed a theme of compassion. Many of the miracles Matthew records, whether in detail or in passing, involved healing the sick and even raising the dead. People flocked to Jesus, desperate like Digory for hope and relief. Matthew tells us that Jesus felt compassion for the people. It’s such a simple, straightforward statement that it’s easy to gloss over it, to not let it sink in that the heart of God Incarnate ached for those who pleaded with Him for help. Did any of these people see “great shining tears” in the Messiah’s eyes?
Unfortunately, even a great church experience can leave us struggling to get beyond a view of God so wrapped in solemnity that we keep Him at an emotional distance. One of the Lewis’ greatest strengths as a writer was his ability to help people see God in a fresh light. Lewis understood the struggle; that’s why he created Narnia and Aslan.
Why did one find it so hard to feel as one was told one ought to feel about God or about the sufferings of Christ?…The whole subject was associated with lowered voices; almost as if it were something medical. But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world…one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency? Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons? I thought one could.2
Lewis certainly did slip past the dragons. Through Aslan, he paints a picture of God as vibrant, wild, merry, terrifying, warm, mysterious, magnetic, wise, wonderful, exciting, dangerous—anything but boring or aloof. Even better, Lewis accomplishes all this while still maintaining the veneration that is God’s due.
So, in answer to my original question of where is God in the midst of my friends’ heartbreak, He is present with them and filled with compassion. Even as He welcomed their loved ones into His glorious presence, He is also ministering to my friends in their grief and lifting them up with the promise of reunion and restoration.
When I was a child, Aslan helped me understand God better so that now, as an adult, I can turn to Scripture itself and see His compassion for the hurting world He came to save.
1. C. S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew (New York: Scholastic, 1988), 142.
2. C. S. Lewis quoted in Walter Hooper, Past Watchful Dragons: The Narnian Chronicles of C. S. Lewis (New York: Collier, 1971), ix.