So my folks were in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park last week. Just them and vast wild breathless beauty. And a lion. Who came to drink water from the shower. While my Mom was showering. My Dad – standing guard – gave the whispered alert and there was a calm steady don’t-panic retreat to the rooftop tent with shampoo, clutched clothes and a Taser which, had the lion been hungrier, would have been somewhat insubstantial.
It made me think about how much stuff could go tragically wrong but doesn’t and how much staying grace there is as God continues to hold our numbered days, wise and tender, until our numbered days are done.
And it made me think of that other lion, Aslan, and how Mr Beaver describes him in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:
‘Safe?’ said Mr Beaver … ‘Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’
In The horse and his boy (number five in The Chronicles of Narnia), Shasta and Aravis are heading north. From poles-apart socio-economic backgrounds, they’re fleeing loveless lives. Long story short: they get wind of the Calormene rulers’ plan to invade Archenland and Narnia while Peter who is now High King is distracted by marauding giants. They bolt on their talking horses to warn the good guys. But Rabadash’s army is closing in. Near the border they’re chased by a lion (guess who) who frightens them into outrunning their (real) pursuers.
Also, the lion claws Aravis because she drugged her slave-maid to escape from Calormene and the lion isn’t cool with that. She’s too badly wounded to go on and she’s forced to stay with a hermit while Shasta goes on to great battles and certain heroism. But Aslan hasn’t forgotten her. He returns. And she’s changed forever.
The Chronicles are make-believe, yet there’s startling stuff to be learned about Jesus as he’s echoed in Aslan.
He dares us.
Shasta and Aravis know they’re in danger and they’re going as fast as they can. Except they’re not. They need a bit of a kick in the talking horse. Aslan dares them into pushing harder riding faster going further. Because actually they can. And actually sometimes so can we. Pressures rise and we’re forced to act because he knows what he’s put in us and sometimes to call it out he has to be fierce.
I wonder if Jesus terrified Peter when he said to him, ‘I’ll build my church on you.’ Peter the rough-around-the-fishing-net guy who was the pebble that became the rock that spread truth to continents.
He disciplines us.
We’ve forgotten how to be ok with difficult truth. When stuff gets a little off-culture we rephrase with nervous laughter or stare at the floor. Like, we’re fine with the wounds of the Saviour as long as we don’t get scratched. But what if the Saviour is so motivated by love that he will do whatever it takes to make you holy? What if he’s the Saviour who says, ‘My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.’
He delays us.
When Elisabeth Elliot got sick she said she wasn’t ‘laid aside by illness but called aside to stillness.’ Because somehow when our plans short circuit and there’s disappointment or delay God does deep things that just won’t sink in when we’re caught in the frenetic mêlée of normal life. When Jesus shows up in the waiting we’re never the same again.
Moses was seriously delayed. Forty years in an Egyptian palace separated from his people. Forty years in the wilderness looking after his father-in-law’s sheep. Forty years wandering to the brink of promise. That’s a lifetime of delay. Yet Moses was the friend of God who stood sans-sandals on holy ground and raised his staff above parted waters and saw the glory ‘til his face shone.
So the way I see it –
If you’re following Jesus, know that he’s the wise and living God of awesome power, blinding splendour and gentle redemption. Know that you’re infinitely loved – so much so that he will dare you. Discipline you. Maybe even delay you. And if you’re following Jesus, ‘There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.’ (C. S. Lewis)
. . .
[Photo credit: Deryck Smith (my Dad)]
I originally published this (and tweaked it for today) on my friend Brett ‘Fish’ Anderson’s blog. His book i, church launches this week. Friend, GET IT! It’s for those who love the church, and those who hate the church. Those who have been hurt or healed by the church. Those who are passive or passionate. It rocks. (The boat.) (In a good way.) Did I mention that you should get it?
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