In C.S. Lewis’ magical book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (art above is from the first edition), four adventurous children enter a land called Narnia and slowly hear rumors about and catch glimpses of the king of Narnia. Eventually, the children come to know this king for themselves, the lion called Aslan, described later in the book as having “great, royal, solemn, overwhelming eyes” which cause the children to go “all trembly.” Many C.S. Lewis fans are familiar with one of the children’s first conversations in Narnia and how they question Mr. and Mrs. Beaver’s description of Aslan. It goes like this:
“Is he a man?” asked Lucy.
“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. Certainly not. I tell you he is King of the wood and the son of the great emperor-beyond-the-sea. Don’t you know who is the King of the Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great lion.”
“ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
The genius of C.S. Lewis’ often-quoted conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, Lucy and Susan is that it so cleverly captures the unguessable, out-of-the-box, awful goodness of God. The theologian Frederich Beuchner writes this about our unguessable, counter-intuitive God who surprised us in the manger:
Those who believe God can never, in a way, be sure of Him again. Once we have seen Him in a stable, we can never be sure where He will appear or at what lengths He will go, to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation He will descend in His wild pursuit of man. If holiness and the awful power and majesty of God were present in this least auspicious of all events, this birth of a peasant’s child, then there is no place or time so lowly or earthbound but that holiness can be present there too. And this means that we are never safe, that there is no place that we can hide from God, no place where we are safe from His power to break in two and re-create the human heart. It is just where God seems most helpless that God is most strong. It is just where we least expect Him that He comes to us fully.
Hanging in our prayer chapel at The Falls Church Anglican is artwork that reminds us of this comforting yet unsettling truth that we are “never safe” and “there is no place that we can hide,” as Beuchner writes. Designed and quilted by Terry Peckarsky, one piece is called, “Adam, Where Are You?” The chase that began with Adam continued in the manger when God emptied himself, taking the form of a servant and coming down from heaven. And he will come again in a way that will catch us by surprise, too, and we will be caught up together with him (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, Matthew 24:44).
Does this make us go “all trembly”?