Books: The Chronicles of Narnia
While there are hundreds of reasons to read The Chronicles of Narnia at least once, here are four reasons why you should read the series every year:
They are fun.
If you can help it, don’t read books you don’t enjoy. C.S. Lewis makes this easy. Lewis is an incredible writer and knows how to tell a story. Reading Chronicles feels less like mandatory reading and a lot more like pleasure. Consider this a Sabbath from all that Grudem, Frame, Chappell or whomever you are studying, and just enjoy.
They are short.
Between commentaries for sermon prep, individual books for ministry and textbooks for seminary, pastors read a lot. For yearly reading, I want something sweet and bite-sized. After working through books that require our full attention, it’s refreshing to be swept up within minutes and be deeply submerged in a quick-moving story.
They vivify theology.
In Chronicles, Lewis’ theological metaphor adds veracity to the life of Christ and richness to our understanding.
Take Eustace Clarence Scrubb, the boy who slept on a “dragon’s hoard with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart” and became a dragon himself. After days of misery for Eustace, Aslan meets the boy and offers him relief in a cold pool. But he must first undress. Eustace realizes Aslan means his scales:
“So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana ….”
But as he was about to step into the water, his skin turned hard and ugly again. He repeats the scrubbing twice more. Now, three ugly skins lie on the green. Aslan speaks: “You will have to let me undress you.” Eustace was, of course, “afraid of his claws … [and] the very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart.” And once the heart-rending claws go to the bottom of his greedy, dragon heart, Eustace is thrown into the pool and becomes a boy again. He is saved from his hellish, lonely, dragon-hearted fate.
It’s an illustration of being sinners in need of God grace. I could explain that our attempts to be good are worth nothing in God’s eyes. I could talk about how God alone must save us. But none of those statements is as rich, vivid or powerful as simply: “We are Eustace, and for so long we have tried to scratch out of dragon skin. Stop. You must be undragoned.”
They make you want heaven.
In Prince Caspian, after hundreds of years of silence, the woods awaken to Aslan’s return. Birch-girls, willow-women, shaggy oak-men, the animals and Lucy celebrate. At Bacchus’ and Silenus’ commands, vines sprout candy-sweet grapes, and the forest feasts and drinks their wine. They dance and spin and laugh in confusing and complicated circles with Aslan at the center. It’s anarchic, and it’s wild. Then, to hear a word from Aslan, the vines recede; the trees and the animals flop in exhaustion. As beautiful and lovely and ecstatic as it was, Susan turns to Lucy and says, “I wouldn’t have felt safe with Bacchus and all his wild girls if we’d met them without Aslan.”
Of the seven signs in John’s Gospel, the first is providing wine for the wedding. Wine, seemingly debaucherous wine, is the initial sign of God’s coming kingdom. Why is it the first? Because the salvation Jesus offers is first like a joyous festival, analogous to a wedding feast. Indulgence will be on the menu at this feast, and the wine will flow, and our hearts will be gladdened. In the presence of God, we may forget control and throw off restraint. How could we overindulge in the glory of his kingdom?
Through Lewis, we remember something we often forget: our God is the God of the Feast. He is the Life-Awakening God, the God of Indulgent and Prodigal Grace, the God of Celebration, the God of Ecstasy and capital “B” Bliss. Those realities will finally be disclosed in their most wild, ecstatic and indulgent forms in heaven. After years of separation, hedonism will be safe. After all, we were created to enjoy him.