A few weeks ago I went to see Creation Theatre’s production of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe. This was one of the first “proper” books I read to myself, aged seven, and is subject of a film that I loved. I know most of the book off-by-heart, I’ve read it that many times.
So I loved that the play was faithful to the book in most respects, even down to the lines the characters delivered. It was magic: the white witch was deliciously evil, the ‘children’ suited to their roles, the professor, spot-on, and the beavers entertainingly fun.
But my favourite character in the Narnia series is Aslan. For C.S. Lewis, Aslan was a representation of Jesus, and the series illustrates some key theological points, from the “deep magic from the dawn of time” which sees Aslan come to back to life, after sacrificing himself for the sake of another on the stone table, to Eustace’s submersion in a pool, as a dragon, to rise as a reformed child, Aslan saying, “I must do it for you”, so reflecting baptism.
Aslan says several things that echo Jesus, as I have mentioned before, “why should that stop you from following me?” and aged seven, without being told, I saw and heard God in him, understood some of what the writer was doing. My image of Aslan has remained constant since my first reading of him, and is one that I cherish.
Creation Theatre’s Aslan was all-wrong to me. He was somehow on two legs, and his eyes were too close together, and his mane wasn’t hairy enough, and his voice wasn’t deep enough, and….. And it mattered. For some reason, not having the ‘right’ image of Aslan made it more difficult for me to lose myself in the story. That, and a church discussion, have made me think much more carefully about the images of God I am holding, my resistance to letting them go.
I didn’t realise until then, that I do cherish images of Christ. If I had to talk about images, one of the first things I’d have said is that I don’t hold them. I don’t make use of icons in prayer or stained glass windows in church. I’d have told you that my God was far too big and multidimensional for any image.
I have to back-track on that. I do hold images of God, and they do matter to me. For a start, hidden in plain sight, my (admittedly ailing) prayer-life is based around imagination. Imagining God as person, sat with me. My images of God, for prayer, are mostly in Jesus, with very little recourse to ‘God’ or ‘Holy Spirit’ in any form.
But God is so much bigger than that, and so much more inclusive. The arms that I imagine myself into are God’s – strong, and tender and human. The Spirit, Whose presence I feel strongly these days, urging me to prayer, to church, to get out of bed, to get into bed…. I don’t know how to imagine that. I don’t really “see” the Spirit at all: I feel it. God is multi-sensory.
And in so much more than I credit, or realise. For sure, God is the Lion, “King of the woods”. But so much more than the Lion, too. And, just as Aslan did for Lucy Pevensie, each time she visited Narnia, every year, God will get bigger to me, as I come to know Him (and Her) more and more. Here’s to the discovery 🙂