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
Beautiful, Helena, and full of truth!
Well, THAT was visceral. Apparently you’re not the last one to get there 🙂
Thank you for pulling that out for us.
I need to read that book again.
Beautiful. I needed this as I get to work tending my own little kingdom (and its wee subjects) this evening.
My husband recently finished reading this aloud to the kids (he does better voices). And I MISSED IT. I was probably moping in the next room about all the laundry I have to fold.
THANK YOU for sharing your glimpse of grace with us! I needed to hear it as much as you did, apparently!
I, too, have been enslaved and I need to capture this thought well: “Of all who live, I am the one best suited to bring order and beauty to this little kingdom.” YES!
The themes of lordship and freedom have been echoing through my day! I sell myself to so many idols, while Christ my Master offers His easy yoke. This is beautiful, Helena.
I needed this.
I need this reminder on a regular basis.
And I don’t mind saying that while I remember the plot points clearly, this “bell” had never tolled for me until you rang it. Thank you!
Along those lines, specifically regarding the kingdom of the home and the significance of its queen (or king!), Chesterton said:
When people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up the question. For I cannot with the utmost energy of imagination conceive what they mean. When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean. To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.
(That’s from What’s Wrong with the World.)
This is wonderful. It rings familiar to me. Thank you for sharing the truth about all those lies, Helena.
Thanks Helena! So very encouraging today.
I also enjoyed reading the rest of H Van Dyke’s Poem after looking it up when you quoted it. May we all persevere with such firmness of heart:
Perspective, as they say, is everything. Thanks for this, Helena, which has helped me to get my eyes off of myself. I have struggled at times with this feeling of insignificance, while I stayed at home to raise my children, now I struggle with it as I sit at my desk and write words that I despair of ever seeing the light of day. I think I need to put that quote over my desk to give me light when the way is dark.
This is really good! As a student, as well, it’s so easy to get into that slave mindset; to serve the masters of ‘approval’ and ‘”good” grades.’ I remember thinking this morning (before reading this), walking into an exam, that my thoughts were too much of the slavish kind (‘how to get the best score’), and that I needed reminding of who I really am: a knowledge-acquirer, not a grade-getter. I’m so thankful for a prayer group that I’m in who are consistently reminding each other that our grades do not define our worth, or even our future success in our lives and calling. Your words definitely speak a reminder to me concerning these things, so thanks.
And with that hope, I’m off to take dominion of some more knowledge!
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