Today we commemorate the life and work of C.S. Lewis, an author, scholar, and theologian whose writing has captivated generations. Perhaps you’ve read his work? His classics include Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and the beloved children’s fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia.
I remember reading the Narnia books as a child; I had a boxed set with the whole collection. My favorite in the series is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I remember being captivated by the characters, the place, and the story as a kid. Magical wardrobes! Fawns! Witches! Lions! Christmas! There were scary parts, but there were a lot of wonderful ones, too. As an adult, I have watched all the film adaptations, but I recently re-read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for the first time as a grown-up. I wanted to see if, many years later, I felt the same way reading the book as I did when I was a kid. I am happy to say that I much enjoyed my re-read and I am glad that I did it.
What I loved the most about revisiting Narnia was, once again, getting lost in the story. I read the whole book in one afternoon (I read much faster now than I did when I was a kid!) yet I found myself lingering in the magical world of beavers and Turkish Delight and Father Christmas. I got caught up amid the battle between good and evil, and cheered on the children as they discovered their gifts. I even found myself wondering more; more than I have in a long time.
Revisiting Narnia invited me to wonder and use my imagination, things that I should probably do more as a grown-up.
Lately, I haven’t used my imagination to wonder very much. I have also felt more stagnant in my faith. Maybe you feel it sometimes, too? As we grow older, we carry so much responsibility: work, family, finances, and everything else. For me, this fall has been a season filled with navigating all of that, plus feeling the heaviness of everything going on in the world. It’s easy for us to get so wrapped up in the busyness, stress, and day-to-day of our lives that we forget to marvel in the mystery and beauty of our world, and of God.
However, as I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I was reminded of what children can teach us about the mystery of faith. Sometimes the simplest act, like hiding in a wardrobe during a game of hide-and-seek, opens us up to new experiences and opportunities. It leads us to new people, new places, and new experiences that renew our faith and our sense of awe and wonder. I see this all the time in the kids I teach at church—their questions, curiosity, and excitement for a simple Bible story. And, when I make a craft or play a game alongside them, I am reminded of my faith as a child and how much simpler life was.
Perhaps that’s why The Chronicles of Narnia is a book that stands the test of time. As children, we are introduced to the fantasy land of Narnia and get lost in the excitement of the story. As adults who may re-read these tales with our children or grandchildren (or even just ourselves, as I read it solo) we receive a reminder of what we experienced as children. We are invited to reenter a place filled with awe and wonder and re-live these childhood fantasies with a slightly different perspective. Through the characters, the setting, and the conflict, we are reminded of the good in the world and how each of us has the power to share that good with each other.
In the dedication of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lewis writes to his goddaughter, saying that although she has grown older in the time that it took for him to write the novel, one day she will ‘start reading fairy tales again.’ Lewis wrote stories that he hoped would be re-read by people of all ages and in other stages of life. Based on my experience, he has succeeded—and now I want to re-read the rest of the Narnia books, eager to revisit this land that continues to inspire me, even today.