We have been reading the Narnia Chronicles with our oldest daughter this spring. Like most kids, she loves them—they’ve captured her. We read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in a day and a half because she pestered us constantly to keep reading it. As we’ve been hiking and exploring this summer, she is making comments about how “this valley is like the one Eustace fell into and became a dragon isn’t it?” or about how “this path looks like the one that Caspian had to ride on to escape his uncle.” These are the moments of parenting I longed for.
Today we finished The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Last night as we were reading we got to the part where the ship and her crew reached “the beginning of the end of the world.” For anyone not familiar with the story, the Dawn Treader is a ship sailing with the King Caspian, its crew and 3 other-world visitors who know Narnia well. Their quest is to findl 7 lords who were exiled during the reign of Caspian’s evil uncle before Caspian won the throne. They got to the last land in the world, the beginning of the end, having found 4 of the lords. They start to explore this land and find three sleeping men, the last 3 lords, their hair and beards still growing and covering the table and chairs and making a large nest of hair on the table. They come to find out it is Aslan’s table, set for any who make it to the end of the earth. It is filled with every amazing food and drink you can think of. In the middle of the table is an old stone knife. There is a woman who keeps the island and she explains what happened to the men. The three came this far and one lord wanted to keep going, to the very end of the earth. One lord wanted to stay and eat and rest and live out his days there. And the last wanted to turn and go home, hoping it would be safe to return. They disagreed so sharply that they began to fight and one of the men grabbed hold of the stone knife. In an instant, all three men fell into an enchanted sleep.
Its at this point in the story, my daughter sat up and gasped. “Mom!” she breathed, “I get it! I know exactly what happened. That stone knife HAS to be the one that the white witch killed Aslan with-because its his table. And because it has magic in it, when the men touched it they went to sleep just like the Witch made it winter which is like the earth sleeping and she also killed Aslan with it which is like forever sleeping! It’s the same magic!”
I looked at her and got chills. At no point does the book make this explicit. But her 6 year old, storybook brain put it together. She saw the magic that runs through those books and made sense of this one story within the larger context of the WHOLE story.
Now we as adults can take this kind of understanding for granted, I think. But this was her first time. Her world is growing and she just saw where the magic was. Now she is not a fanciful kid—if you said we were going to find unicorns, she would look at you funny. She has told us she did not believe in Santa because she surveyed the adults in her life at Christmas and concluded that Santa probably did not actually exist but he was a great story.
But she gets this magic; she gets it in its coherent story form—she gets the connections. She gets the beauty and the consistency of it.
I wonder, when she made the connection in this book, if she made a connection in her world—that the pulse that runs throughout a good story IS the pulse that runs throughout the world. And that recognizing THIS is the beginning of seeing God everywhere—of seeing the story you know in your heart spelled out there in the world, in a different context, told with different words. It’s the same story, the same magic.
The world is hard and it feels overwhelming. I sit at home with little people and sometimes I can just feel the strength of its darkness. I open up the laptop and start reading the news or just flicking through social media and its like the internet is this deep gaping hole where we can all just lose our true selves. The evil is obvious on the internet. And I confess, I feel helpless a lot of the time when I read about just the hate and shame and pride and shallowness of ourselves. I can get very afraid of what we will become and it feels very close to home.
BUT, then, I have to stop. And let my own self see what is actually before my eyes. There is darkness, yes—even as I am writing this on my deck, I can hear a woman shout with desperation and anger, “ Get out of here!” I don’t know who she’s talking to—a partner, a sister, a child. And then I look up and see a line of cloud, dark grey in silhouette before the golds and corals in the sky. And it connects from the south to the north, touching the trees that surround me. And in those trees I hear real birds singing what my kids call their “sky songs.” And I know that behind me, through the doors are sleeping good people who I love and who love me.
And I feel it for a minute—and I am not afraid for a minute. That magic that I can see through the line of clouds, to the birds, to my own heart is still there.
When I was a girl I read a story about a girl who got lost in caves under the mountains by her home. She wandered through the caves and tunnels but eventually found a red thread that wound its way through the caves. She couldn’t always see where it was going, and she sometimes couldn’t even see it at all, but if she kept holding onto it, it would guide her and eventually show her the way out. A tiny, tremulous thread but very real in the darkness.
My daughter stumbled onto that lifeline tonight—or rather she uncovered it and brought it out from within her. She found how the magic in the stories connected and it thrilled her own soul. Her face went all red as she was talking, when she realized that underneath all these stories was a connection that was consistent and made sense and she could recognize it. And her momma’s prayer is that she will hold on to this thread even in the darkness.
This is the beginning of her journey—her soul’s journey in this world towards God, with God. It’s her journey to seeing truth and depth and meaning everywhere, under, over, and connected within all the things we know. She is at the beginning of her experience with that magic of the universe and one day this through-line will help her know herself as loved and it will sustain her and at times carry her and at times call her forward, hopefully into that fullness of life.