Today was a strangely emotional day. I chaperoned a field trip with my daughter Katie's class to see The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe performed as a play in downtown Portland. It wrecked me. In the best way possible.
When I was a little girl, my family would read novels out loud in the evenings before bedtime. It was a great way to pass the long, cold winter nights of the Midwest. Through books we escaped the snowy cornfields and traveled to magical places. One Christmas our parents bought my brother and I The Chronicles of Narnia book series. We started by reading the first book - The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
My parents explained to us ahead of time how the story was a fantasy novel but also a clear picture of the story of Jesus. We were excited. But I scare easy. The imaginary characters, the evil queen, and the danger the children in the story encounter scared me spitless. The beauty of the story was lost on me. I couldn't read any more of the books. I shelved the series. Then boxed it up when I moved out to go to college. Years later, I unboxed it when Katie got old enough to read chapter books. The series now sits on the bookshelf in her room.
Sarah (our fifth child) loves The Chronicles of Narnia and has them on audio book. Last summer she and I took the kids hiking. Four miles into a seven mile hike the kids started to fall apart. There was whining. Tears. Sitting on the trail and wailing on more than one occasion, "I'm going to die of starvation and dehydration before we get back to the car." Sarah could see I was not handling the whining very well so she rescued me. She started telling the kids the story of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, complete with British accents. Before we knew it we were all clumped around her, hanging on her every word and trying not to trip on rocks and tree roots as we hiked. Her retelling of a book that terrified me as a kid opened my eyes as an adult to see the beauty of the story.
When Katie brought home a permission slip to see The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe as a play I was excited to join her. We arrived at the theatre just before the play started and were ushered into seats on the main floor of the auditorium. I was instantly spellbound. The sets, lighting and sound effects were impressive. The costumes were marginal, but the acting was terrific. I was engaged from the first sentence and hung on every word.
As the story progressed, I found myself becoming more and more emotional. The play condenses the entire book into one hour so I'm sure some of the details I saw were portrayed differently than the book. But this is a synopsis of how the actors so beautifully and powerfully told the story today.
Edmund (a Son of Adam) follows his sister Lucy (a Daughter of Eve) into a magical land called Narnia where it is always winter but never Christmas. Edmund is warned by Lucy about the evil Witch who masquerades as a Queen and rules over Narnia. In spite of this warning, he falls for her lies and abandons Lucy to chase after the promise of some day being King of Narnia. While he waits for his throne, he will have access to unlimited Turkish Delight.
Unfortunately, Edmund's rebellion foils the fulfillment of a prophesy that would release Narnia from the witch's grasp and return Aslan, the gentle but fiercely good Lion, to his rightful place as King. Edmund realizes his mistake too late. He is enslaved, captive to the Witch and her evil purpose for his life.
Lucy, Susan and Peter (Edmund's siblings), aided by Aslan, attempt to rescue Edmund. But the Witch smugly declares that the Deep Magic states that all traitor's lives are forfeited to the Witch. Anyone who rescues Edmund without following the Laws of the Deep Magic dooms Narnia to forever be under the Witch's authority. Edmund sealed his fate when he chose to follow the Witch. There appears to be no way to save Edmund from the Witch's murderous plot.
Then Aslan steps in. The fearsome Lion and the Witch step aside to talk privately. When they emerge, the Witch sets Edmund free but reminds Aslan that he must keep his Promise. The confused children don't know what Promise Aslan made and he doesn't tell them as he sends them away for the night.
Lucy and Susan know something is wrong. They sneak back to Aslan in the night. "Are you sick?" they ask. He softly replies, "No. I'm sad." They sit by him, stroking his mane, holding him, and singing gently. He visibly gains comfort and strength from their love.
The Witch and her evil minions, under the cloak of darkness in the thick of night, return to the Stone Table where Aslan waits to fulfill his Promise. Lucy and Susan watch in horror, hidden in the shadows, as the Witch muzzles Aslan then binds him on the Stone Table. Then she murders him.
The Witch, thinking she has won control of Narnia, leaves the bloody scene in search of the children. After she leaves a violent storm shakes Narnia and the Stone Table breaks in half. When the sisters turn to look Aslan is gone.
The battle scene between the Witch and Good is vivid and loud. Casualties are inflicted on both sides. Just as all seems lost, Aslan roars onto the scene, shocking everyone. How can this be? The Witch, more than anyone, is baffled. Is he a ghost? Is she seeing a vision?
Aslan assures everyone that he is very much alive. He tells the children that if the Witch had looked further back in time at the Deep Magic, she would have learned that when a willing, innocent victim is killed by a traitor, the Stone Table will crack and death will be reversed.
Aslan gave his life so Edmund could live, and so that Narnia and all its inhabitants would be set free from the Witch's power.
Aslan slays the Witch and banishes her evil followers. He then breathes life on Narnia. The snow melts and spring returns. The inhabitants of Narnia celebrate their restored kingdom with a coronation service. Aslan ceremoniously crowns Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy as rulers of Narnia. "All hail King Peter, Son of Adam. All hail Queen Susan, Daughter of Eve." The children swell with pride and stand taller as each of them transforms to their new identity and role in the kingdom of Narnia.
Aslan's sacrifice changed the children's identity. No longer are they vulnerable children. Peter, Susan, Lucy and Edmund are now esteemed sons and daughters of the King.
I tried to hold it together, but inwardly I wept. Silent tears spilled down my cheeks and I tried to wipe them away in the dark before Katie noticed.
Who loves like that?
I, like Edmund, am a traitor. Far too often I fall for the lies of my Enemy. Wrapped in illusions of beauty and disguised as a treasure, I choose the illusion of Turkish Delight. The Delight is a smoke screen and I find myself enslaved to my desire - held captive against my will.
But my Jesus... He rescues. He saves. He willingly laid Himself down on the Stone Table so that death would be reversed. He gave his life so I could live. He breathed life on me so I could embrace my new identity as a Daughter of the King and live in freedom to do the work He purposed for me in His Kingdom.
The play today wrecked me.
In a beautiful, messy way.
Just like Jesus' love.