Longing For Another Land (Part 3)

As I mentioned in a previous post, my children (and even my wife, to a certain extent) are all Narnia crazy these days. In case you don’t know what “Narnia” is, let me briefly explain…

The magical land of Narnia appears in C. S. Lewis’ series of books “The Chronicles of Narnia.” While there are seven books in the series, the most familiar is probably “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” which was made into a movie that somewhat remotely resembled the book in 2005 (Note: I am not a fan of the most recent batch of Narnia movies. Too many liberties taken with, well, everything.). In that book, four children enter an enchanted wardrobe and find themselves in the snow-covered land of Narnia, where they eventually meet the great lion Aslan, help defeat the evil White Witch, and become kings and queens of the land (Still not sure how you can have two kings and two queens, none of whom are married to each other, but I’ll roll with it here…).

Several months ago, I was talking with someone about a serious season of depression I was going through (Unfortunately, bouts with depression are very common for me. One day, when I get brave enough, I’ll write about that…). I told him how even reading through the Bible was causing me anxiety. You know the story of Abraham and Sarah? (Well, actually, at the time I’m going to talk about, it was still “Abram” and “Sarai”, but anyway…) At one point, the two of them head down to Egypt to avoid a famine. Abraham decides his wife is so smokin’ hot that the Egyptians might try and kill him so they can have her, so he comes up with one of the great plans of all time: “We’ll just say you’re my sister! I mean, what could possibly go wrong, huh?”

Well, actually, plenty could (and did) go wrong with that plan … or, at least, it went wrong for Pharaoh, who – believing Sarah really was Abraham’s sister – had swapped some cattle and servants for the new girl in town. That sweet deal earned him a series of plagues, and he eventually put two-and-two together and figured out Sarah and Abraham were more than just siblings. It’s interesting to note Pharaoh didn’t even ask for his stuff back; he just told the two of them to go.

Now, to me, it seems like Abraham (and Sarah as well) was the one who screwed up here. He deliberately lied to Pharaoh and then took some of his possessions in a swap for his own wife, so one would think it’s Abraham who would be in line for some nasty stuff to happen to him. As I mentioned in the last paragraph, though, it’s actually Pharaoh and his house that are struck with the plagues, not Abraham and Sarah. And then Abraham apparently strolls out of town with Pharaoh’s end of the trade in tow.

To me, this illustrates the strength of God’s covenant with Abraham, that he is still under God’s protection even if he should happen to stumble upon the way. What I also think of, though, when I read about Abraham is how Pharaoh’s role in the story seems to have been planned out as the villain – even though he doesn’t knowingly do anything wrong. And when I thing about God laying out different roles for different people, no matter what their actions are, I ask myself a very frightening question: “What if I’m not Abraham? What if I’m the OTHER guy in the story?”

So, anyway, as I’m explaining this dilemma, the person I’m talking to says sometimes it helps him to read some type of fiction. It just so happened at the time that my wife and I were looking for some kind of family reading project for us and the kids to share in. I had purchased a hardbound collection of all seven Narnia books several years ago, but I had hesitated reading them to my children because of some of the violence and the quandary of trying to explain why magic was okay in these books but not in something like “Harry Potter.”

(For the record, I’ve never read any of the “Harry Potter” books or seen any of the movies. We’ve just always been leery of exposing our kids to stories with lots of “magic” in them, and Harry Potter was just the first name to pop into my head there. Please don’t send me angry comments or lengthy dissertations on how I’m a narrow-minded religious zealot. Thanks.)

Contrary to my hopes, reading the Narnia books did not bring me out of the funk I was in. In fact, even though my family was being taken to a new level of thinking about reading and stories and where they can take you, I found myself getting a little downhearted. “Why,” I found myself asking, “can I not be caught up in an adventure like that?” I was almost jealous of the characters themselves. If Aslan was supposed to represent Christ – and if Christ could come and sweep you away into a world that makes you feel as fully alive as Narnia – why wasn’t he doing that for me?

The trip to Disney World represented that adventure for me (It probably didn’t hurt that we listened to our Narnia CD’s all the way to Florida and back.). The only problem was that I had to go back to the “real world” once the vacation was over. And as the days passed, I found myself losing that feeling I had when I was in the Magic Kingdom. It was slipping away, and there didn’t seem to be anything I could do to make it stay. I wanted to go back to Narnia, but the wardrobe was all closed up.

Oddly enough, it would be two things I really didn’t care for much initially that made me understand that even though I didn’t feel at home, I really was in the place I belonged…

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