I know I went through the wardrobe once already this week, but today – back to Narnia. Fair warning: I’ll probably do it again (and again) in the coming weeks. After today, though, I think I’ll set a little rule for myself never to do so twice in one week. I wouldn’t want you or I to get Narnia’d out. Thing is, the journey I’m taking back through Lewis’s series has been fun and good for me.
At the moment I’m a little over halfway through The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Just two nights ago, I bumped into one of those rare moments Aslan shows up – and in this particular moment, he shows up to Lucy. I’ll spare us all too much context and simply say the great lion arrives in the midst of Lucy’s casting of a spell from an old Magician’s book that will make invisible things visible, and in so doing, save her life and the lives of others. But once the spell is cast and turmoil is settled, Aslan turns to leave as quickly as he came. As you would imagine, Lucy’s undone by his desire to (seemingly) leave her to herself once again. Aslan spots her grief and says, “Do not look so sad. We shall meet soon again.”
“Please, Aslan,” said Lucy, “what do you call soon?”
“I call all times soon,” said Aslan.
I don’t think it’s too large a leap to think Lewis had Psalm 90:4 in mind when he placed those words on the lion’s lips: “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” Having quoted the verse, I’ll go ahead and say right up front what I hope at least a few of you reading this would say yourselves: That’s not exactly the kind of thought you initially file away under “Comforting.” It’s why I found it amusing years ago to find Psalm 90:4 cross-stitched on fabric, beautifully framed, and hung in the bathroom of a house I was visiting during a pastoral call. Really? That verse warms you so much you want it in front of you every day? Because I spend most of my days trying to get away from it. No, I have a real appreciation for what the old Magician says cheekily to Lucy just after she’s broken the spell and Aslan has left: “Come. All times may be soon to Aslan; but in my home all hungry times are one o’ clock.”
Look here: I am the Magician, the Magician is me. All I know is “now.” All I know is I’m hungry now, and at this point in my life, I’m hungry for much more than the sorts of things that are spooned out on my plate at one o’ clock.
Rereading this moment in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – and revisiting Psalm 90:4 – has me wondering, Does God choose to lose track of time? And please do pay attention to the wording there. Simply “to lose track of time” is to lay the groundwork for a failure or a fumbling. But what about when you choose to lose track of time? When you realize the whole world around you will be in fits over the wait you’re giving them, but you know – you know – what you are doing is far too important to be a slave to time? (And besides: What if you know the whole world has it wrong anyway in all their talk about having to “wait” on you or all their talk about your supposedly being “absent”?)
Later this year, in August, we’ll celebrate our daughter’s birthday, and my wife and I will inevitably stumble into a conversation about how she arrived five weeks early. It probably goes without saying, but we weren’t quite ready. What always stands out to me when I reflect on those blurred-together days is that the morning my wife went into labor, we took a moment to order Eden’s carseat, praying it would arrive by the time we were released from the hospital. Lo and behold, it was dropped off on our little townhouse’s stoop the very morning we were informed we could go home. So, I left Sarah to pull all of our stuff together at the hospital, and I rushed to the house to install the carseat. But you need to know while I rushed to the house, I was never going to rush the installation of the carseat itself, because this thing was going to carry home the frail frame of my four-pound-eleven-ounce daughter. If the manual by Graco told me to batten down the thing with the cross belt so tightly that the seat won’t wiggle more than inch to the left or the right, that was what I was going to do. If the manual by Graco said the arrow on the little spinning wheel device that helps you know the seat is level should always be found smack dab in the part of the wheel painted orange, then I was going to settle only for “smack dab in the middle.” If the manual by Graco said I should reinforce the carseat by using the special strap in the back that attaches to a carseat latch found in some makes and models of cars – and if it said it should be pulled as tightly as that cross belt from earlier – then I was going to do all of that. Because I’ll say it again: This thing was going to carry home the frail frame of my four-pound-eleven-ounce daughter. When I opened up that Graco manual, I chose to lose track of time to do whatever I needed to do, no matter how long it took, because – my daughter. Even if it meant my being stuffed into the backseat of a car on a dog-day afternoon. Even if it meant at some point I might receive a text message from my wife, saying, “You think you’ll be back soon? We’re about to celebrate Eden’s first birthday here.” Even if Eden herself was crying out, “Please, Dad. What do you call soon?”
But then, goodness – is all of this my even being gone? I would hope you or I would never call a father sweating his way through his shirt – while studying and applying a Graco manual as if it were the Bible – an “absentee father.” I’d say in my defense I was there more than most in my supposed “absence.” Which means, of course, those who are waiting on me were never really waiting on me. I was working to bring everyone home safely. Sometimes someone is there – just differently.
Perhaps this is a bit of what Lewis was getting at in an interaction between Lucy and Aslan right before the one I’ve spelled out above. The lion suddenly appears, and Lucy says, “Oh, Aslan, it was kind of you to come.” His response? “I have been here all the time, but you have just made me visible.” Of course, this is in reference, in part, to the spell Lucy has just cast to make invisible things visible. But I think there’s more to it than that, don’t you? For Lucy, who is always on the lookout for the lion, Aslan is teaching her to have eyes to see that which she feels is not there – who she feels is not there. This is why Aslan can say the thing he says that seems blushingly foolish when you first read it: “I call all times soon.” Of course he does! He’s never quite gone, is he? God is never not there at work for the good of those who believe in him (and even those who don’t), is he? We’re only ever waiting in part, aren’t we? I think we’d see that if we have eyes to see – if we had the courage to see time as our servant and not our master, and God as one not mastered by time, this so that he might best serve us, his children.