We Must Go Now. At Least I Must.

Prince Caspian
C.S. Lewis

“I’m sorry,” said Lucy, who understood some of his moods.  “I didn’t mean to start slanging the others.  But it wasn’t my fault anyway, was it?”

The Lion looked straight into her eyes.

“Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy.  “You don’t mean it was?  How could I – I couldn’t have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I?  Don’t look at me like that…oh well, I suppose I could.  Yes, and it wouldn’t have been alone, I know, not if I was with you.  But what would have been the good?”

Aslan said nothing.

“You mean,” said Lucy rather faintly, “that it would have turned out all right – somehow?  But how?  Please, Aslan!  Am I not to know?”

“To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan.  “No.  Nobody is ever told that.”

“Oh dear,” said Lucy.

“But anyone can find out what will happen,” said Aslan.  “If you go back to the others now, and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all get up at once and follow me – what will happen?  There is only one way of finding out.”

“Do you mean that is what you want me to do?” gasped Lucy.

“Yes, little one,” said Aslan.

“Will the others see you too?” asked Lucy.

“Certainly not at first,” said Aslan.  “Later on, it depends.”

“But they won’t believe me!” said Lucy.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Aslan.

“Oh dear, oh dear,” said Lucy.  “And I was so pleased at finding you again.  And I thought you’d let me stay.  And I thought you’d come roaring in and frighten all the enemies away – like last time.  And now everything is going to be horrid.”

“It is hard for you, little one,” said Aslan.  “But things never happen the same way twice.  It has been hard for us all in Narnia before now.”

Lucy buried her head in his mane to hide from his face.  But there must have been magic in his mane.  She could feel lion-strength going into her.  Quite suddenly she sat up.

“I’m sorry, Aslan,” she said.  “I’m ready now.”

“Now you are a lioness,” said Aslan.  “And now all Narnia will be renewed.  But come.  We have no time to lose.”…

“Now, child” said Aslan, when they had left the trees behind them, “I will wait here.  Go and wake the others and tell them to follow.  If they will not, then you at least must follow me alone.”

It is a terrible thing to have to wake four people, all older than yourself and all very tired, for the purpose of telling them something they probably won’t believe and making them do something they certainly won’t like.  “I mustn’t think about it, I must just do it,” thought Lucy.

She went to Peter first and shook him.  “Peter,” she whispered in his ear, “wake up.  Quick.  Aslan is here.  He says we’ve got to follow him at once.”

“Certainly, Lu.  Whatever you like,” said Peter unexpectedly.  This was encouraging, but as Peter instantly rolled round and went to sleep again it wasn’t much use.

Then she tried Susan.  Susan did really wake up, but only to say in her most annoying grown-up voice, “You’ve been dreaming, Lucy.  Go to sleep again.”

She tackled Edmund next.  It was very difficult to wake him, but when at least she had done it he was really awake and sat up.

“Eh?” he said in a grumpy voice.  “What are you talking about?”

She said it all over again.  This was one of the worst parts of her job, for each time she said it, it sounded less convincing.

“Aslan!” said Edmund, jumping up.  “Hurray!  Where?”

Lucy turned back to where she could see the Lion waiting, his patient eyes fixed upon her.  “There,” she said, pointing.

“Where?” asked Edmund again.

“There.  There.  Don’t you see?  Just this side of the trees.”

Edmund stared hard for a while and then said, “No.  There’s nothing there.  You’ve got dazzled and muddled with the moonlight.  One does, you know.  I thought I saw something for a moment myself.  It’s only an optical what-do-you-call-it.”

“I can see him all the time,” said Lucy.  “He’s looking straight at us.”

“Then why can’t I see him?”

“He said you mightn’t be able to.”


“I don’t know.  That’s what he said.”

“Oh, bother it all,” said Edmund.  “I do wish you wouldn’t keep on seeing things. But I suppose we’ll have to wake the others.”

When the whole party was finally awake Lucy had to tell her story for the fourth time.  The blank silence which followed it was as discouraging as anything could be.

“I can’t see anything,” said Peter after he had stared his eyes sore.  “Can you, Susan?”

“No, of course I can’t,” snapped Susan.  “Because there isn’t anything to see.  She’s been dreaming.  Do lie down and go to sleep Lucy.”

“And I do hope,” said Lucy in a tremulous voice, “that you will all come with me.  Because – because I’ll have to go with him whether anyone else does or not.”

“Don’t talk nonsense, Lucy,” said Susan.  “Of course you can’t go off on your own.  Don’t let her, Peter.  She’s being downright naughty.”

“I’ll go with her, if she must go,” said Edmund.  “She’s been right before.”

“I know she has,” said Peter.  “And she may have been right this morning.  We certainly had no luck going down the gorge.  Still – at this hour of the night.  And why should Aslan be invisible to us?  He never used to be.  It’s not like him.  What does the D.L.F. say?”

“Oh, I say nothing at all,” answered the Dwarf.  “If you all go, of course I’ll go with you; and if your party splits up, I’ll go with the High King.  That’s my duty to him and King Caspian.  But, if you ask my private opinion, I’m a plain dwarf who doesn’t think there’s much chance of finding a road by night where you couldn’t find one by day.  And I have no use for magic lions which are talking lions and don’t talk, and friendly lions though they don’t do us any good, and whopping big lions though nobody can see them.  It’s all bilge and beanstalks as far as I can see.”

“He’s beating his paw on the ground for us to hurry,” said Lucy.  “We must go now.  At least I must.”

“You’ve no right to try to force the rest of us like that.  It’s four to one and you’re the youngest,” said Susan.

“Oh, come on,” growled Edmund.  “We’ve got to go.  There’ll be no peace till we do.”  He fully intended to back Lucy up, but he was annoyed at losing his night’s sleep and was making up for it by doing everything as sulkily as possible.

“On the march, then,” said Peter, wearily fitting his arm into his shield-strap and putting his helmet on.  At any other time he would have said something nice to Lucy, who was his favorite sister, for he know how wretched she must be feeling, and he knew that, whatever had happened, it was not her fault.  But he couldn’t help being a little annoyed with her all the same.

Susan was the worst.  “Supposing I started behaving like Lucy,” she said.  “I might threaten to stay here whether the rest of you went on or not.  I jolly well think I shall.”

“Obey the High King, your Majesty,” said Trumpkin, “and let’s be off.  If I’m not to be allowed to sleep, I’d as soon march as stand here talking.”

And so at last they got on the move.  Lucy went first, biting her lip and trying not to say all the things she thought of saying to Susan.  But she forgot them when she fixed her eyes on Aslan.  He turned and walked at a slow pace about thirty yards ahead of them.  The others had only Lucy’s directions to guide them, for Aslan was not only invisible to them but silent as well.  His big cat-like paws made no noise on the grass.

He led them to the right of the dancing trees – whether they were still dancing nobody knew, for Lucy had her eyes on the Lion and the rest had their eyes on Lucy – and nearer the edge of the gorge.  “Cobbles and kettledrums!” thought Trumpkin.  “I hope this madness isn’t going to end in a moonlight climb and broken necks.”

“Lucy,” said Susan in a very small voice.

“Yes?” said Lucy.

“I see him now.  I’m sorry.”

“That’s all right.”

“But I’ve been far worse than you know.  I really believed it was him – he, I mean – yesterday.  When he warned us not to go down to the fir wood.  And I really believed it was him tonight, when you woke us up.  I mean, deep down inside.  Or I could have, if I’d let myself.  But I just wanted to get out of the woods and – and – oh, I don’t know.  And what ever am I to say to him?”

“Perhaps you won’t need to say much,” suggested Lucy. 


Not Just Inside the Mind

Talking God and Dostoevsky in Vietnam

My friend, a recent graduate from a Hanoi university, has digested many of the French and Russian classics. Most of the former set found their way into Vietnamese during the early part of the last century, while the bulk of the latter accompanied an increasing Soviet influence, which marked the end of French occupation in 1954.

As we sat across from each other in the cafe booth, sipping an iced blend of espresso and sweetened condensed milk, he reflected on three of his favorite Western authors, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Hugo. He isn’t a believer, but I asked about the composite picture of Christianity these writers had supplied him.

Thinking, he rubbed his chin with one finger and then began, “I like Crime and Punishment because it’s a story of a madman, Raskolnikov, who becomes one of the best guys in the book at the end. And a young prostitute saw his soul and wanted to help him.”

He paused and squinted, continuing on a little quicker than before, “But God only fights inside the mind. With Tolstoy, it’s also like this, but God doesn’t have much power to influence the character of a person. For example . . . ”

He tapped the bit of glass tabletop beside his cup, scouring his mind for a name. I waited attentively and urged on his search with my fixed eyes and nodding head, excited at any mention of Dostoevsky, my favorite novelist. Once retrieved, the name filled in the empty space. “. . . Pierre, from War and Peace, dreams of many big things, like Raskolnikov, but he didn’t do anything big for anyone else. He only married Natasha. I think their faith is not as strong as Victor Hugo. In Les Miserables, Jean Valjean believes God did everything for him, and he becomes a tool of God.”

Link: Complete Blog Post

Faith and Suffering

The Message of 1 Peter
Edmund Clowney

[13] Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? [14] But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, [15] but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, [16] having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

1 Peter 3:13–16

Hope is the form that faith takes under the threat of death.

“Yes, Lord, I believe”

John 11:17-27

[17] Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. [18] Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, [19] and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. [20] So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. [21] Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. [22] But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” [23] Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” [24] Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” [25] Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, [26] and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” [27] She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

In the novel, the Kite Runner, two childhood friends are divided by one boy’s guilt.  His friend was brutally assaulted by other boys.  He actually could have done something and he knows that only his selfishness and fear kept him from helping his friend.

When Martha approaches her Lord after her brother has died, she knows that Jesus could have done something.  She had pleaded with him to come, but He did not.  Martha could have been overcome with bitterness.

In Over the Rhine, our church children experience many things that they do not understand.  Why do fathers or mothers leave?  Why do beloved uncles and cousins get shot?  Why do “good” people go to jail, while “bad” people do whatever they want?  We, too, have our questions.  We, too, are confused by what the Lord allows in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

Martha has questions, she is heartbroken, but she still believes in Jesus – that He is “the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (v. 27).  She does not know why Jesus delayed.  She does not know that Jesus will resurrect Lazarus in a few moments.  But she does know, that Jesus loved Lazarus deeply.  And she knows that He loves her (John 11:3, 5).

God may not answer many of our questions in this lifetime, but He does answer the most important question: does Jesus love you?  His answer is “Yes.”  He loves you enough to give His body and His blood for you.

Relying on Something to Be True

Islam in our Backyard
Tony Payne

“So what do you think ‘faith’ is?”

“It’s very simple.  It’s trusting the truth of something or someone based on the evidence available.  You have ‘faith’ that your wife loves you.  That’s not a leap in the dark.  You have good reason to believe it, because of the evidence – how she treats you, what she says to you, the fact that she is still here, and so on.  That’s ‘faith.’  I guess you could replace it with the word ‘trust’; it’s ‘relying on something to be true.’”

Religion Exists in the World

Islam in our Backyard
Tony Payne

This categorization of faith and religion in one box, and facts and truth in another, has a long history which we have already touched upon.  It is a distinction, however, that ultimately doesn’t hold up, because the claims of religion and ethical systems cannot be partitioned off from the real world.  They exist in the world.  They make claims, and assert certain things to be true about the world – and indeed, about the God (or gods) who made the world, and may have some present influence over the world.  These claims are either valid or not; that is, they are true or they are not.  Either there really is an all-just, all-merciful Allah, who rules all events in this world, or there is not.  We may disagree and argue about whether it is true, but it is either true or not.  It’s nonsensical to say that Allah is God of all the world in one breath, and then to allow that he is not in the next.

On what basis, then, can we assess whether a religious system, or any system of thought, is true?  There are endless philosophical debates about questions such as this, but put simply, there are two basic tests that we can apply.

Firstly, we can assess whether a system of belief or philosophy is internally consistent; that is, we can check to see if there are contradictions or internal conflicts bound up within the system itself that render it unlikely to be true…

This brings us to the second test.  The most basic way in which humans have always established or tested the truth of a claim is to compare it (and its consequences) with the world outside the system – that is, to ‘check it against the world and see.’  To the extent that a religion or system of thought makes claims about the world, and events in the world, we can try to see if these claims are externally verifiable, if they can be attested by other sources, and if they give a good account of human experience…

Things are true or they’re not.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether they are or not – that is, it’s hard to get enough evidence to tell one way or the other – but at least you can try, and in principle get there.

Not Only to Others

[24] Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. [25] So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

[26] Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” [27] Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” [28] Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

– John 20:24-28

Even after many of the disciples have seen the risen Jesus, they are hiding. They are afraid to be arrested and killed the way Jesus was. Jesus appears and says, “Peace be with you.”

Then he singles out Thomas. Is Jesus yelling at Thomas for his lack of faith? Is He shaming him by repeating his request? I doubt it. Nearly all the other disciples did not believe before they saw the resurrected Christ either.

Jesus is reaching out to his disciple who has been crushed, who is on the brink of despair. He tells him, “Thomas I hear you. I know you. Your faith wavers, but I am the Good Shepherd, and I  leave none of my sheep behind. My grace is for you.”

Next, Jesus tells Thomas, “Do not disbelieve but believe.” Jesus is not asking for general belief. This is not about whether Thomas believes that God exists or that He created the world. Plenty of people believe that. This is not about belief in self or even the strength of  one’s faith. Jesus knows Thomas’s faith is not strong enough. Jesus wants Thomas to believe that He is the Son of God and that he can have eternal life in His name.

Faith is not general. It is specific and personal. The Heidelberg Catechism defines faith as follows:

True faith is a sure knowledge whereby I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in His Word. At the same time it is a firm confidence that not only to others, but also to me, God has granted forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation, out of mere grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits. This faith the Holy Spirit works in my heart by the gospel.

Do you know that the grace of God is for you? You who are sinful and weak, you who go astray – Jesus died and rose for you! The peace of God is for you!

We go to sleep, and God begins his work.

Working the Angles
Eugene Peterson

Sometimes, still in a stupor, I blunder into the middle of something that is nearly done, and go to work thinking that I am starting it.  But when I do I interfere with what is already far along on its way to completion.  My sincere intentions and cheerful whistle while I work make it no less a blunder and an aggravation.  The sensible thing is to ask, “Where do I fit?  Where do you need an extra hand?  What still needs to be done?”

The Hebrew evening/morning sequence conditions us to the rhythms of grace.  We go to sleep, and God begins his work.  As we sleep he develops his covenant.  We wake and are called out to participate in God’s creative action.  We respond in faith, in work.  But always grace is previous.  Grace is primary.  We wake into a world we didn’t make, into a salvation we didn’t earn.  Evening: God begins, without our help, his creative day.  Morning: God calls us to enjoy and share and develop the work he initiated.

As this biblical genesis rhythm works in me, I also discover something else: when I quit my day’s work, nothing essential stops.  I prepare for sleep not with a feeling of exhausted frustration because there is so much yet undone and unfinished, but with expectancy.  The day is about to begin!  God’s genesis words are about to be spoken again.

I go to sleep to get out of the way for awhile.