31 Days:: The Power of Story
Day 28: The Power of Story
Isn’t it peculiar how certain stories resonate so much with you that they seem to become part of your very DNA?
The first time I finished reading C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle I was staying at a condo right on the water in South Lake Tahoe with my husband, my kids, and our dog. It was the first week of January 2012 and we had rented our friend’s condo in the Tahoe Keys for the weekend so that we could escape the busy Bay Area and enjoy some good old-fashioned family time together. Although there weren’t piles of snow all over the place that year, as one might expect of Tahoe in the winter, it was dang cold. All the water surrounding our condo was frozen several inches deep. Every morning, as the sun began to warm up the frozen world outside, we would hear a deep shifting and cracking of the ice butting up against our balcony. The first time I heard it, I thought somebody was banging a hammer on wood in an empty garage nearby– it was a haunting, tremblingly loud sound.
At that time in our life, our family had a habit of gathering together every night before bed and listening to Hubby read to us. We had been working our way through The Chronicles of Narnia and, on our last night at the Keys, we had just three more chapters to go before that epic series would come to an end. Eager to find out what would happen to all our beloved characters, we all settled in for a good long storytime. I was lying belly down on the ground in front of the warm fireplace, with my head propped up on my elbows, a cozy blanket over me, and my big, dopey dog passed out next to me. Hubby and the girls curled up together under a thick, soft blanket on the couch, the giant Narnia anthology open on dad’s lap. The sky was clear and filled with bright, shimmering stars outside our windows.
After who knows how many months of near-nightly reading, we were finally at the end of our Narnia journey. And this Last Battle storyline was particularly captivating. From the start, the story and it’s characters intrigued me; a naïve, people-pleasing donkey; a deceptive, charismatic ape; Evil manipulating Good in order to gain power and clout; the world getting rapidly corrupt due to the malice of a select few. Honestly, in a lot of ways I hated the story— mostly because it resonated with me and, in it, I could see the world in which I live. Unfortunately, I don’t have to look far to see tragedies like this playing out in the world just beyond my front porch.
But, for me, what was most compelling about this story was Aslan the Lion, King of the World. I was filled with wonder at the way he came in and lovingly rescued his people from the horrors their world was experiencing. The way he had compassion and grace for those who had naïvely, yet not with evil intentions, been a part of the vile plan that eventually destroyed their beautiful world. The tender way he had concern for even those who had willingly tuned him out and blatantly refused to believe in him. He was the fiercest, most powerful, yet most forgiving, pure, benevolent creature I had ever seen in literature. I was in awe.
And God spoke to me through Aslan. As I listened to my husband read the story and mulled over how very incredible this Aslan was, God whispered to me that He, too, is like that. He, too, is so in love with me, so eager to bless and to help and to extend grace and to redeem me… that He will do whatever it takes to rescue me and to help me find Him.
When the last words of the last chapter of The Last Battle were read, I felt something new inside my soul: a longing for heaven. Not in a take-me-now kind of way, but in a fearless, “that will be amazing when it does come” kind of way. As all the kids and animals excitedly traveled deeper and deeper into Aslan’s country, symbolic of the hereafter, they were able to run swiftly and tirelessly. They were no longer self-conscious, no longer able to feel fear (even if they tried to!) and they were able to adventure anywhere they wanted to in this incredible new world. The colors were brighter, the images clearer, and the smells purer and more intense than anything they had ever experienced before. And for someone who always kind of wondered if heaven would be a boring place to spend forever, it was pure joy for me to hear this rendition of the afterlife.
When the story was all done, I was left with a great big “Wow.” The Bible says that “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). With that in mind, I realized that if C.S. Lewis was able to imagine this awesomeness… and what God has in store for us is even better than anything even C.S. Lewis could conceive of… it must be pretty darn mind-blowing.
To this day, when I and my girls talk about death or heaven, we often simply refer to it as “Aslan’s country.” And we don’t fear it. We certainly aren’t in a hurry to get there, mind you! But we aren’t afraid of it. The imagery that The Last Battle blazed into our souls has stuck with us. Just as the morning sun heated up the frozen water at our condo that winter, causing tremblingly loud cracks to echo, so comfort and courage reverberates out of me and my daughters when any of us are warmed by the thought that perhaps heaven will, in fact, be as beautiful and adventurous and exhilarating as the world C.S. Lewis imagined in his masterful tale.
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What about you?
What story has resonated with you even years after you first read it? Why do you think it had such a lasting effect on you? Or: What special family habits/traditions have you done with your kids over the years?
Please feel free to share your journey in the comment section below.