Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sabbath Reflections: Reflections on the Death of Aslan

If I’m still in an Easter mood, I blame it on Narnia. I went to see a musical production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe last night at a local high school.

Now, I have to preface this with the fact that I’ve never liked Susan. She’s always too darn practical. (For fans of the series, this led to a smug, “I knew it!” in The Last Battle which I immediately felt guilty about.)

Anyway, the Susan in the musical was just like that. In the sister’s song right after Aslan’s death, this is what she sings, “Little sister, no more tears / Though the night is long and dark / Still the dawn appears. / Dearest Lucy, dry your eyes. / Yes, the dawn is cold and gray. / Still the sun will rise.”

I get the point. Really, I do. This was supposed to be a sweet and touching moment of the play. But it just made me angry. I wanted to yell, “Let Lucy cry!” Susan has the annoying habit of wanting to make everything reasonable.

Mary and Martha were a bit like Lucy and Susan. One was impulsive and emotional, one was practical and a hard worker. Two sisters; different approaches to life.

But when their brother died, both had a similar reaction. Both cried. Both went to Jesus to ask why he hadn’t done anything. Neither tried to pretend that it didn’t hurt.

And Jesus cried with them. Yes, he said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” but he didn’t force them to stop grieving as a result. There was hope, but it didn’t come in the form of instructions to dry your eyes. It was in the promise that one day, every tear will be dried.

After the song, the two Pevensie sisters spoke these lines.

Lucy: I feel like the sun never will rise again. What can we do?

Susan: We can... grieve for him, and honor him, and try to go on.

Which also, to me, felt very inadequate. I think the scriptwriters were trying to give those unfamiliar with the story a little hope, because there were still a few scenes to get through before Aslan would triumph.

But, in this case, Susan was wrong. When you watch (or read about) the White Witch’s murder of Aslan, you know one thing for sure: the sun will not rise unless he does.

That’s the power of story. There are very few fictional deaths that have that kind of power over me, where I feel like something real has happened, that there was a loss that I should be mourning.

As Christians, we sometimes want to be Susans. Grief is messy, and intense sorrow can seem like a lack of faith. But we don’t have to have neat answers to put in consolation cards. Sometimes we need to sit beside Lucy and let her cry.

As Christian writers, we sometimes want to be Susans. We shy away from the real, gut-wrenching emotions in our stories because we don’t trust our readers. We have to have happy endings to every subplot, with plenty of theological explanations for the bad that does happen. We swoop in with answers to make things reasonable again, often too soon.

In the original story, C.S. Lewis let Lucy and Susan cry without providing hope too soon, because that would have been a false hope.

So, to the musical characters, I say, “Susan, death is not reasonable. It was never meant to be. And Lucy, go ahead and cry.”

Then, when Aslan does rise, they’ll be able to feel the real hope, not the false one that says everything is okay when it’s not.

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