Many of you know Helena Sorensen from Hutchmoot last year. She is the author of Shiloh, a Young Adult Fantasy I am eager to read. I love this post. It gets at something we value so deeply at Story Warren and, I think, at The Rabbit Room as well. –Sam
I really don’t know how Lewis did it, how he stuffed so many little gems between the pages of The Chronicles of Narnia. As a child, I saw them sparkling, and they were lovely. As an adult, having done a bit of living and then returned to the tales, I’ve been able to pluck out the shiny things and put them in my pocket. I found one recently in the closing chapters of The Silver Chair.
For those unfamiliar with The Silver Chair, [spoilers in this paragraph] this story follows Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb on a quest to find the lost prince of Narnia, Prince Rilian. Along with Puddleglum, the children free the prince from his long imprisonment in the Underworld. In the process, they help Rilian kill the witch/queen/sorceress who had bewitched and enslaved him. But it’s not until the company escapes the Underworld and returns to Narnia that they piece together the whole of the witch’s plan. At the very end of their quest, they realize “how she had dug right under Narnia and was going to break out and rule it through Rilian: and how he had never dreamed that the country of which she would make him king (king in name, but really her slave) was his own country.”
That passage stopped me cold, the strength of my reaction seemingly disproportionate to the words I’d read. I moved on to the next chapter, while my son listened and squirmed. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that some great, eternal bell had tolled, and I was changed.
Perhaps most of you have gotten this revelation already, and I’m slow on the uptake. It wouldn’t be the first time. But Lewis’s lost prince and the bleak future that awaited him are finally getting through to me. I’m realizing a terrible truth.
I have lived as a slave in my own kingdom.
In this little house, with the front closet that’s always filling with damp and mildew, with the warped boards in the floor beside the washing machine, with the shelves spilling over with books, and the walls covered with photographs of chunky babies . . . in this place, the place where God has given me some measure of dominion, I have lived like a slave. I’ve seen every mess, every meal, every load of laundry as a link in a chain. I’ve answered endless questions and filled endless mornings and changed endless diapers as acts of penance. The Enemy is so subtle, and I am so easily bewitched. Ever he comes to “steal and kill and destroy,” and I relinquish my freedom, my authority, my joy. I let him take it all, without a fight, without a word of protest. That’s slave mentality for you.
Three lines from an old Henry Van Dyke poem keep running around in my head.
This is my work; my blessing, not my doom;
Of all who live, I am the one by whom
This work can best be done in the right way.
My days are filled to overflowing with work. It’s very rarely the neat, organized, sitting-behind-a-desk variety. More often, it’s the smelly, frustrating, down-on-your-knees variety. But my work is my blessing, not my doom. Of all who live, I am the one best suited to bring order and beauty to this little kingdom.
“It is for freedom that Christ set us free.” (Gal. 5:1) Lewis knew it. He knew also how often we become entangled in yokes of bondage. One thin veil of lies, one small net of self-pity, one little spell cast over us, and we forfeit our freedom. Prince Rilian was given the rule of a country. I’ve been given rule over a little house and some little souls. It’s a high calling, a blessed rule, a joyful endeavor. If only I have eyes to see it.
“By entering into the world and confronting the Evil One with the fullness of Divine Goodness, the way was opened for us to live in the world, no longer as victims, but as free men and women, guided, not by optimism, but by hope.” —Henri Nouwen
“Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” —Romans 8:21