My daughter and I have been reading through The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. It’s a wonderful story, but it is also a wonderful theology of humanity. Lucy, the youngest of the four, finds herself in a game of hide and seek. She finds refuge in a wardrobe. The wardrobe becomes the secret pathway to a new world called Narnia. Upon arriving in this new world, she meets Mr. Tumnus, a faun.a Mr. Tumnus discovers that Lucy is a daughter of Eve and further that she is not a threat to his well-being. He invites her for a cup of tea. Lucy, initially hesitant, accepts his kind request. Lucy enjoys the hospitality of the faun and falls peacefully asleep in the comfort of his home. Upon awaking, Mr. Tumnus is full of grief. He belittles himself for making a pact with the Witch. The deal was that he was to inform the Witch if he ever met a human. Lucy’s grace to the faun changes him. The Witch shows no grace, but Lucy does. Grace changes the faun. Once Mr. Tumnus gets a taste of the good, namely Lucy, he turns away and devotes himself to the good. Yet, he will soon discover that though he is forgiven, there is always pain when you associate yourself with evil.
Later in the story, Edmund, Lucy’s older brother, also enters the land of Narnia. He was mistrusting of Lucy’s original assertion that such a land existed beyond the wardrobe. Edmund is initially met by the Witch herself. Humans have always been a threat to the Witch’s rule over Narnia. She whispers words of deceit to Edmund. She tempts Edmund to accept her gifts. Edmund willingly takes it and offers her all the information she desires. The information undoubtedly will out all of Edmund’s siblings at risk, including little Lucy. The offer from the witch is equivalent to a type of wilderness offer where the devil offers food and royalty in exchange for loyalty.
The point of the story is that there is redemption from evil, even when you have made an alliance with evil. The redemption from evil begins when your heart starts to turn towards the good; we can say to be more precise, when your heart begins to turn towards God himself.
We know that there is redemption for Edmund in C.S. Lewis’ story. Later on he is known as King Edmund, the Just. But before he could become a Just King he needed to be humbled by a Just Lion named Aslan. Edmund, as you may remember, was full of doubt. He rejected the supernatural and even mocked Lucy; in essence, he mocked the good, true, and beautiful. Edmund cared nothing about others. He was merely concerned about his needs above anything else. The good news is that his heart began to turn towards Aslan. Aslan is pictured in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles as a messianic figure; a tender leader and a great warrior.
The prophet Joel provides a tender picture of how Yahweh receives repentant sinners.
Joel begins with this apocalyptic promise of doom for Israel. Locusts will come and devour everything. But Yahweh says, “Change your ways and I will receive you.”
Joel 2:13 reads:
Tear your heart, and not your garments,
and turn to Yahweh, your God;
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness…
Yahweh is asking for the heart of a people. He wants their inner disposition to be changed towards him.
All these outwards signs that Joel speaks of matter little if the heart is not changed. What Yahweh is after is allegiance. Yahweh is a jealous God. “Turn to me,” Yahweh says. “Hear my voice and I will receive you and show you abundant love.”
There is a lovely little narrative later in Edmund’s story that makes this point. When Edmund finally meets Aslan in the story Edmund is encouraged by a forgiving leader. When Edmund is confronted by the Witch, she accuses him. The Witch is unaware of Edmund’s change of heart. The Edmund who naively accepted Turkish delight from evil has matured into accepting the delight that comes by embracing the good.
“You have a traitor there, Aslan,” said the Witch. Of course everyone present knew that she meant Edmund. But Edmund had got past thinking about himself after all he’d been through and after the talk he’d had that morning. He just went on looking at Aslan. It didn’t seem to matter what the Witch said. (13.37)
Edmund’s conversation with Aslan dispels all the after-effects of his betrayal. Edmund has begun to change radically and forever, and part of that change is that he’s not thinking about himself all the time. Edmund has begun to see that one voice echoes abundant love and mercy and another voice is deceitful.
Joel reminds the people of God to remember God’s mercy. And in very Narnia-like language Joel writes that Yahweh will turn the death of the land into a flourishing land where God abides:
Do not be afraid, you wild animals,
for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green.
The trees are bearing their fruit;
the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.
23 Be glad, people of Zion,
rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he has given you the autumn rains
because he is faithful.
He sends you abundant showers,
both autumn and spring rains, as before.
This is not just the language of national repentance, but of personal repentance. During this season, God is calling us to know that when we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and full of mercy and grace and abundant in love. When we confess our sins, God is there to speaking to us words of grace and comfort. At that moment it doesn’t matter what evil may be speaking and accusing us as long as we keep looking to Jesus, our advocate.
“And as the Witch was speaking, Edmund just went on looking at Aslan. It didn’t seem to matter what the Witch said.” No. It shouldn’t matter. It really shouldn’t.
- The faun is a half human–half goat (from the head to the waist being human, but with the addition of goat horns) manifestation of forest and animal spirits that would help or hinder humans at whim (back)