The Good News of Silence

I’ve been re-reading “The Chronicles of Narnia” at night before bed, and even now in my late thirties I do the very thing I did back in grade school when I first read the books: I lean in just a little more each moment Aslan comes on the scene. But he doesn’t show up a lot, does he? When you step away from the books, you have a tendency to remember the lion bounding about on every other page. But when you return to the series, no – he’s rarely there (at least not in a tangible way). So when he does arrive in all his splendor, you’re enraptured as a reader. You’ve been waiting to hear just what it is he has to say to the characters you’re concerned about, be it Lucy or Edmund or Eustace or Caspian. What’s frustrating is that in these precious-few moments, Aslan’s just as likely not to say much of anything as he is to speak. He’ll arrive and get right to letting the person in front of him do the majority of the talking.

There’s really only one conclusion you can come to as to why Aslan so often opts for such a seemingly passive posture: He does so because he’s convinced he’s already made himself known as to what is to be done or said, and he knows the person before him knows this is the case, and what’s more, that they themselves know exactly what it is that they are to do. And so he’s quite happy simply to stand there, letting the person before him march out every alternative word or deed, all that they become so exhausted in the debate with themselves that they no longer have it in them to speak or do anything other than the word or deed Aslan has already long revealed to them. (If you want a really wonderful example of this in the books, take a look at the interaction between Aslan and Lucy deep in Narnian woods in the second half of Prince Caspian.) Let’s dispense of the whole charge of passivity. The great lion is anything but! Through the power of silence, he’s quite actively working with someone to tease out what was said in a roar – even if a quiet one – days, weeks, or months before.

It’s an astute trademark Lewis assigns to Aslan, his Christ-figure, because I’ve found Jesus often works in my life the same as Aslan does in Lucy’s or Edmund’s, Eustace’s or Caspian’s. I plead with Jesus to burst onto the scene at some critical moment, and when he finally does, he often just stands there, looking at me. So I’ll get to talking, because someone has to, for goodness’ sake. I’ll tell him how there’s this option for me over here, and that option for me over there, and then – oh! look! – another option and another and another, and all the while I’ll dance in and out of the roles of prosecutor and defense lawyer for all the options. And yet despite the spectacular show I’m putting on, he’ll just continue to stand there, his only action to blink every now and then.

And I will say, “Say something!”

And he will merely lift his eyebrows a bit with a glint in his eye.

And so I will say more firmly, “Say something.

And he will offer what looks like a sort of sad smile.

And so I will yell, “SAY SOMETHING!”

And finally he will say, with just the edge of a growl, “I already have.”

And in the sweet exhaustion he has led me into, the many options begin to fall out of my head and away from my lips. Because while some are quite good, and others are quite bad, didn’t I always know the one that only ever seemed just right? Didn’t he speak it to me days ago in some snatch of Scripture? Didn’t he speak it to me weeks ago through a word placed in the mouth of a brother or sister and spoken over me? Didn’t he speak it to me a month ago while I was caught up in prayer early one morning? In the sweet exhaustion he has led me into I will remember I have heard from him already.

“SAY SOMETHING!” I yell.

“I already have,” he growls.

“I know,” I say. Very, very quietly. Because it’s a bit embarrassing, you see.

It can be maddening, his approach. In his defense, just who was maddening first? But I don’t care to end this little post with a word about how maddening his chosen silence can be, because more and more I’m seeing it as something really very wonderful. Not always, but more often than not, Jesus’ silence is the good news that I’ve already been given the answer, I need only finally acknowledge it – even if a bit sheepishly – and live it.