“I Know Grief Is Great,” Said the Lion

The Magician’s Nephew was the Narnia book that took C. S Lewis the longest to write. He conceived it as a way to explain the origin of Narnia, as well as an imaginative answer to how a wardrobe could have such magical powers and why a lamp-post seemingly pops up in the middle of a forest. I believe he succeeded admirably.

As I’ve explained in previous posts, I have been preparing to teach the Narnia series at my church. Doing so has been not just a pleasure but a joy. I’ve also been reminded why each book is more than merely a tale for children.

If one wants to point to which of the books reveals the heart of God the most, there really can’t be a rival to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe simply because of Aslan’s laying down of his life for Edmund. But there is a moment in The Magician’s Nephew that beautifully portrays how the Creator can be touched by the sorrows of one of his creations.

Digory’s mother is dying. Digory is hoping that Aslan can give him something to restore his mother’s health. He asks Aslan about this much in the manner of someone who seeks the favor of a powerful potentate. He is awed by Aslan’s presence, but then he is startled by what he sees.

Aslan then follows up with these words:

Digory is surprised by the sensitive nature of this great Lion. It stays with him as he is sent on a mission to retrieve a magical apple in a garden. Jadis, the witch, awaits him in that garden and the Genesis account of the fall of man is reenacted as she attempts to convince him that Aslan doesn’t really care and that Digory should take the apple for himself and use it for his mother.

“What has the Lion ever done for you that you should be his slave?” said the witch. “What can he do to you once you are back in your own world: And what would your Mother think if she knew that you could have taken her pain away and given her back her life and saved your Father’s heart from being broken, and that you wouldn’t—that you’d rather run messages for a wild animal in a strange world that is no business of yours?”

The temptation is subtle, very real, appealing to Digory’s love for his family. He nearly succumbs. What kept him from doing so? Jadis erred in telling him to abandon his friend, Polly. He walks away from the temptation. But there is something more that stayed with him:

How do we view God? Is He only the great Creator? The stern Judge, perhaps? We should remember that Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus. There’s another passage that, while not mentioning tears precisely, gives that strong impression:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling.

Luke 13:34

The heart of our God is sometimes left out of the image we have of Him. Yes, we talk about the love of God; we even quote the scripture that reminds us that God is love. But do we really understand how deeply He enters into our lives, how He weeps with those who weep and rejoices with those who rejoice?

Lewis captures the heart of God in this story. It’s one of the highlights of the Chronicles of Narnia.