The Lion in the Cellar: Down into the Darkness of Our Past
- Tuesday, September 20, 2005
One of my favorite books is The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Night after fantastical night, I read aloud from this book to my daughter when she was only three or four. I’ve since done the same with my son. This timeless classic continues to fascinate decades after its publication, and a new generation will experience the power of its message in a feature film later this year.
Many of us know the story: Four children discover a three-dimensional wardrobe, and through it stumble into the magical world of Narnia. Here, in a place filled with talking animals and vivid imagery of good and evil, the children ultimately make friends with Aslan the lion. Aslan is, of course, Jesus. And the story is an allegorical retelling of His sacrifice and ultimate victory over darkness. The White Witch (Satan) has caused all of Narnia to be covered in snow—“Always winter and never Christmas” as good Mr. Tumnus the faun reports to one of the children—and ultimately Aslan returns to bring life and color (Paradise) back into being.
Early on in their journey, the four children take refuge in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. Following a wonderful supper, Mr. Beaver begins telling everyone all about Narnia and the witch and Aslan. Though they haven’t yet met Him, the very sound of His name causes a stirring in the children.
“Who is Aslan?” asked Susan.
“Is—is he a man?” asked Lucy.
“…I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor Beyond-the-Sea…Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
The very discussion has them all a-shiver, sitting there around the fireplace with cups of steaming tea in their hands. Scared to listen and scared not to, they cannot help asking more. And then Lucy, youngest and most innocent, asks a most profound question. She wants to know, as do we all, about the character of this Aslan.
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
In one way or another, Lucy’s question is one each of us asks: Is He safe? Can I approach Him without being eaten?
We live in a frightening world: The war in Iraq, tragedy in New Orleans and Mississippi, and, among many believers, a general sense of an ever-growing evil spreading its shadow throughout our culture. In my counseling practice, I consistently deal with people who seem stalked by a daily darkness, a thing I call “generic fear.” This fear can be the result of unresolved issues from the past, completely unrecognized for years on end, ultimately manifesting itself in all sorts of ways in someone’s life—as it did in Carla’s.
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