In one of the less famous scenes from the Chronicles of Narnia, Jill Pole winds up pushing Eustace of the edge of a cliff in anger (Eustace is saved by Aslan). Later she finds herself powerfully thirsty and drawn to the sound of a stream in the woods. This is the same forest Aslan disappeared into after the dreadful incident with Eustace and she is terrified to enter, but also desperate for water. Eventually she creeps through the trees and finds the stream – cool, bubbling, perfect. But she is paralyzed by what she sees there; Aslan, huge, silent, and still as a statue at the water’s edge. Jill is frozen between her fear and her need until finally Aslan speaks.
“If you are thirsty, you may drink.”
“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.
“I am dying of thirst,” said Jill.
“Then drink,” said the Lion.
“May I – could I – would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.
The Lion answered only by a look and a very low growl. And just as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.
The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her frantic.
“Will you promise not to – do anything to me, if I come?”
“I make no promise,” said the Lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
“Do you eat girls?” she said.
“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.
“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.
-The Silver Chair
I think all of us have moments where we resent the inescapable simplicity of Christ. Where our own fears or the shadow-guilt laid upon us by he Evil One make Jesus the last person we want to talk to – even as He is unquestionably who we need most.
I had a wonderful Thanksgiving, I really did, but like all families there is always a story or two from the previous year that brings our shared human brokenness into sharp relief. Whether it’s a divorce or a sickness, a failed business or plain old bad judgement, there is always a reminder of just how much we need Jesus, we never need to look too far to see just how much the world needs His love and healing but also how much we need His unshakable strength – His wildness.
I’m reading a fantastic book right now called The Holy Wild by Mark Buchanan where he talks about this God of ours who eats up kings and empires without apology. The God who gives us no options, “Either we drink from [His] stream or we die.” And it got me thinking how grateful I am for that discovery in my life, that despite all the options man brings to the table of his own suffering, there really is only one path to life. It’s not to disregard the tremendous help that can be offered by psychology or medicine, by education or recovery programs. Those things are all wonderful inventions and do tremendous good in the world. But in the end they are all woefully unable to truly change our state of fallenness.
Understanding does not equal healing.
Knowledge is miles from meaning.
When Thoreau says that ‘wildness is the preservation of the world’ he is of course talking about streams and woods and wolves. But isn’t the same thing so true for our hearts? Without a God who is wild how can we ever get beyond our own myopia? A God with no ‘wild’ in Him is boring and in no time at all we loose the awe that makes worship possible and obedience meaningful. The remarkable thing is that our God is much like the woods in this way – for much of our lives we can keep the wildness at bay if we choose. We can decide to live indoors where the temperature is controlled to within half a degree of 72 and little is asked of us beside an occasional missions trip offering (which feels like wrenching sacrifice). But the wild will always invade from time to time, reminding us that our cloister is not the world, not the real world anyway. And in that frame of mind the wild seems threatening and fey. It’s only when we seek the wilderness and embrace it on its own terms that we find it to be beautiful beyond measure and indeed the nursery of the abundant life we crave.
So among other things I find myself deeply thankful for the way in which Jesus has often stood in my way. Where He has stubbornly refused to “go away” while I do something for myself. I’m tankful that in my quest for Life He remains both the wall in my way and the door to the other side – if only I’m willing to knock.