Thursday, April 2, 2015

Narnia in winter

I'm not sure if you've read the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis, a series of seven novelettes written for children, but completely compelling for adults. These are allegories, meant to picture the story of man's paradise lost, the Saviour's redemptive work, stories of faith and perseverance, and the final triumph of the kingdom of Heaven. 

In his most well-known book of the series, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Narnia (the kingdom, of which Aslan the lion is the king) starts out buried in snow - a concept I can easily understand because I live in one of the Canadian Maritime provinces!! 

In the story, it has been winter for many years in Narnia. Hope has all but died out that there will ever be any change. The white witch has ruled for many years, enslaving the creatures who live there, turning those who defied her to stone, and ruling the rest through fear. Her informants are everywhere; she sends patrols out to keep the residents in line, and to make sure that there are no humans in Narnia because she has heard the prophecy. The prophecy is that when the humans become involved in Narnia, winter will end and so - eventually - will she. Then - Lucy Pevensy steps through the portal into Narnia, and tells her siblings, and they too cross the threshold into another world.

One of the great things about allegory is that there are so many different applications to the truth it can represent. 

Photo "Kingdom Of Cold" courtesy of
evgeni dinev at
I have been acutely feeling the icy cold of the witch's power, and it has been distressing me, making me to want to rise up and rebel, to call out for Aslan to come and rescue us, to break the witch's power. 

To me, the witch and her icy kingdom represent the frozen grip of religion and all the bondage that it brings. "Touch not, taste not, handle not..." Rules, regulations, exceptions, limitations and especially additions. Additions of conditions, the gospel of "Jesus AND." The "Jesus AND" doctrine has been around the church almost since its inception. People who believed like this were called "Judaizers" - those who believed that you had to be saved AND follow the law of Moses. The whole book of Galatians was written to counter this lie. 

This is ... the same lie mixed with truth that Eve began to believe even before the serpent deceived her. Surely you must have seen that before - the religion she had begun to create in her own mind, the one that added to what God had told her husband Adam. God had told Adam not to eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, that in the day that he or his wife ate the fruit, they would die.  One simple commandment and the truth about the death they would die even while still physically alive.

But that one commandment wasn't good enough for Eve. No, she had to be religious about it. She had to create rules around how to act around the tree. She began to believe that the tree with its fruit was dangerous in itself, that God's commandment included not even touching the fruit, not even touching the tree. This was the enemy's tool to deceive her. For, you see, he was crawling all over that tree - and he was still alive. 

And that happened in a place that was perfect. Perfect. Don't think it isn't happening in the church. As a matter of fact, it's RAMPANT in the church. It panders to the tendency that humans have to want to control their own destiny; we don't like being powerless. However, without Jesus, that's exactly what we are. Going back to trying to hold up the weight of the world and fend off the devil by ourselves is not the kind of abundant life that Jesus talked about. It's bondage. It's dead and cold, stiff and uninviting, full of fear and dread and depression. The snow might be pretty - but a pretty prison is still a prison.

THAT is the winter I have been feeling - the icy tendrils of religion all around me, blinding people with how "beautiful" it is - because, don't you know, we humans love liturgy. We love structure. We love being able to slot this into this hole and that into that hole. Living life by rules (though it may be difficult at times) seems easier - more predictable, and sadly, more preferable - than living life the way Jesus intended: under the perfect liberty of His Love.

It's easier to live life with a playbook - but it's a living death. It's duty, dread, and depression - every day. And living in that kind of fear, we die a little more inside every day - and not in a good way.

It's HIS grace, HIS love that makes it possible for us to be in relationship with Him. ALL our sin is dealt with (past, present, future) and all He wants is for us to let Him know us - a progressive intimacy. Love bubbles up and melts the ice.

How tragic is it to miss the mark, to fall from Grace so far that we would willingly trade our God-given freedom for the rituals and rigors of regimented living? 

Come rescue us, Aslan. (Save us from ourselves, Jesus.) End the white witch's reign. (Put the spirit of Jezebel to death.) Melt the ice and make the flowers bloom again.

Soon. Very, VERY soon.

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