I have always thought of myself as a citizen of Narnia.
One could say that I was a child with an overactive imagination, and I loved to read. The combination of these two realities made me a prime candidate to be drawn into the world of Narnia. C.S. Lewis had a marvelous way of creating lands,characters, ideas and dreams by being exceptionally clear and wonderfully indirect. His unique quality of world-making invited the reader to find their place in this world in a very natural, organic way. Like any new place one might travel, you learn how to live and act in that place mainly by being there, and not necessarily by being told what to do. This is the world created by Lewis- one where you were invited to come in and be.
Clearly, all of this is retrospective. As a young imaginative boy I was not thinking in terms of literary composition and character development. All I knew is that Narnia and its citizens made me feel something I had never felt before. I would daydream about what it would be like to really be there. I found myself envious of Peter, Lucy, Edmund, and Susan- to chat with Mr. Beaver, befriend Mr. Tumnus, and, most of all, to battle side-by-side with King Aslan. There was something both terrifying and comforting when Aslan’s name would appear on the page. His presence was not something to be trifled with, and yet in every moment of danger I found myself shouting “Where’s Aslan!” And when the final battle was won, I found myself at a loss. Is this the end? Yes, the White Witch is dead… but Aslan is too great to go away forever- the story is too wonderful! And as I thought the story was ending, I was wonderfully corrected:
“But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
Yet sadly, my childhood passions fell away. That sense of wonder and excitement all but seemed to vanish in my teen years. And, of course, Jack would have found this quite shameful. I found myself in my late teens and early adulthood in a place of deep skepticism. Nothing in this world seemed to make sense and there were no battles that seemed worth fighting. The pain and suffering surrounding me seemed to be too much, and if there was a god he surely wasn’t good (or at least as good as I thought he should be!). Then, I was given two books by a friend- The Problem of Pain and Surprised by Joy. The name on the bottom of them struck a chord deep in my heart- C.S. Lewis. “I’m not sure how a fantasy novelist is going to help me in my existential crisis,” I though to myself. But the depression of a meaningless life was closing in, so I thought, “what the hell.”
As I read through the pages, I was baffled. This was no Narnia, but the world he presented was just as marvelous as the one Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy explored. The God he presented was not the god I had contrived, yet, he was eerily familiar. Then I realized- I know this God. It’s Aslan! In my moment of danger, that’s who I really desired- I wanted Aslan. It was both terrifying and comforting. It was not Aslan, but Jesus, and I had longed for him even before I knew him.
So there I sat, baffled by the words in front of me. Jack had struggled with the same things I had- yet, he found comfort and solace in a king named Jesus. Yes, there was pain in this world, but that pain could only be hated if there was one who ruled who was infinitely good. What was true in Narnia was true here on earth- rather, what is true on earth was true in Narnia. This was the beginning of my journey and my great adventure. C.S. Lewis was showing me the way to Jesus long before I knew who Jesus truly was. And when I came to know him, I realized that my heart had been longing for him since my childhood. Jesus is a great lion- the Lion of Judah. His presence is not to be trifled with, but it is comforting to be with him. He is not safe, but he is good. Aslan has won the war.
I am a citizen of Narnia. I am a son of the King. Thank you, Saint Jack, for being a spiritual father for me.
Clive Staples Lewis is survived by innumerable spiritual children, whom he has helped lead to Christ, rear in the faith, and challenge for a life of continual discipleship.