Loving the lion

Lion - Louisville Zoo

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Shortly before Christmas, I was chatting with a friend of mine, and mentioned that I was in the final stages of rereading the Chronicles of Narnia series. Which I do pretty much every year.

I’ve mentioned before that when I was 12 or so, my 6th grade teacher read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe to our class. It was one of a handful of books he read to us, including The Adventures of Huck Finn (later assigned in 10th grade) and Lord of the Flies (assigned in 8th). I’m not sure now why he decided to read them to us, other than (1) he wanted us to know them (and let’s face it, not every kid will read a book just because it’s assigned) and (2) some of them were probably a good bit over our heads so unless he led us we might not understand much and (3) they were good stories, and he hoped that if he got us involved in the story, and didn’t suck all the joy out of it by making us write book reports (shudder) maybe we’d develop a love of books.

You know, if we didn’t already have one… the soul-sucking horror of book reports notwithstanding.

I don’t know how that worked out overall, but in any case, he read us the The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, and I loved it. Loved. It. I didn’t know anything about CS Lewis. I also hadn’t been to church since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, and the symbolism went right past me. I loved it anyway… it was just a great story.

And I just loved, loved, loved Aslan. I wanted that world to be real. I wanted there to really be such a King.

Once he read that one to us, I needed to read Prince Caspian. Which is one of the slower reads of the series IMO, but I soaked it up anyway.  At the end Aslan tells the older kids that they will have to come to know him by another name in their own world (ours) and I wondered about that, but it wasn’t spelled out in the stories. I wonder, in retrospect, if some of my avid re-reading over the years was looking to figure it out.

Prince Caspian leads straight into The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which I liked a lot. Action packed, interesting stuff to a child’s mind, although I was always really confused about why, toward the end there, the great Lion appears, for just a moment and for no explicable reason to the story, as a Lamb. At the time, this was terribly confusing. It all became so much clearer to me in my thirties.

Then the Silver Chair, and The Horse and His Boy. And then, The Magicians Nephew and The Last Battle. And all of them have such wonderful scenes embedded in them. I reread The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and The Last Battle every year, even if I get distracted and don’t get around to reading any of the other books.

Some of my earliest personal experiences of Christianity were Narnianism, and I suspect it’s a large portion of why my views of heaven have never tended toward some sort of misty float-on-a-cloud, play-a-harp-and-sing-songs, ho-hum existence.

But I digress to a significant degree.

As I was saying (before I so rudely interrupted myself) I was mentioning my re-reading to my friend, and she seemed surprised that I love those books that much.

She had never really been into them, she said.  Which surprised me.

She said that she much more enjoyed the Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers.  Which I had never even heard of.  Which in turn surprised her.

I was pleased, but not surprised, when I got the series for Christmas.

I am 2.5/3 books in. And I love them. Love, love, love.
I weep.
I am inspired.
I am devouring them at an alarming rate.

And now I sort of get why she wasn’t into the Chronicles of Narnia, in comparison.  The Chronicles of Narnia is a wonderful story that has a significant allegorical element.  It is a wonderful introduction to Truth wrapped up in an engaging series of children’s stories. Because of the way they touched me, I had the longing, and the heart-feeling of faith long before I had the head-knowledge to back it up. I had that love/longing, in fact, even later when my doubting intellect was holding me pretty far back from faith.

…He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” …

The Chronicles of Narnia was a wonderful introduction, or pre-introduction, to the Truth.

But my friend was already a believer as a very young child. Well before I was being introduced to these books, she would have already loved Jesus as Himself, without need for another representation of Him.

The Mark of the Lion series, on the other hand, is historical fiction, set about 40 years post-resurrection, in Judea, Rome, Germania, Ephesus, and destinations in between. They are definitely not for young children. The lions encountered are those in the arena, to which Christians are apt to be thrown. There is war, starvation, violence, idolatry, drunkenness, lust and debauchery; truly “adult situations” in every sense. [Sounds like your average evening of cable television offerings, no?]

And yet in these settings, they are all about the faithfulness and redeeming power of God, the struggles of believers in the world, and the journey to belief and hope by those in darkness. They are compelling, and they are littered with biblical quotes – pure truth interspersed in the fiction to make it stronger, more powerful, more inspiring.

… For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword…

Both series are terrific reads… but in very different ways. Know your audience; know yourself.

Have you read these series? What did you think of them?

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About aka gringita
Flotsam generator. Amateur photographer. Avid traveler. Christ follower.

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