(…With apologies to C.S. Lewis)
I have journeyed many times with the boy called Shasta. His heart was full when he left for Narnia, but things have not turn out like he hoped. Not by a long shot. I especially feel for him after he delivers an urgent message to a foreign king. The king promptly forgets about him, leaving him alone at midnight on a cold mountain road. Shasta moves tepidly in the blackness. Disappointed. Exhausted. Numb.
* * *
I look around at my living room, and my heart sinks. The clutter makes me crazy. So many discarded toys, fallen books, and half-eaten snacks. And of course, the popcorn bowls. They are lined up on the floor to catch the drops of rain that soak through the ceiling. Each of them are half full, and the rain will continue for another two days. My head is pounding beneath the arguments of little girls, the crying of little boys, and the incessant babbling of a six-year old who may never learn to speak. He flaps two paper towels an inch from my nose. We don’t exactly know why he does it. It’s just what autistic boys do. I try to make him look me in the eyes, but he just keeps on flapping. I let him.
My wife is calling me. She begs me to engage him. But I am too numb.
* * *
Shasta senses danger next to him. He knows the feeling too well. After all, he is a runaway orphan on a valuable warhorse. In recent weeks, he has outrun soldiers, avoided jackals, eavesdropped on scheming kings, and faced a host of lions. So now, when he hears the ominous footsteps of a giant beast creeping next to him, he is almost resigned to his fate.
“Oh, I am the unluckiest person in the whole world!”
* * *
It is bedtime now, and we prepare a regimine of vitamins and antibiotics. At least one of my five children has been sick for how long… six months? Infections go in circles between them. It is probably because of the dampness and mold. We need to move out, I know, but the rent is low here, and we cannot afford to go anywhere else.
My three year old needs help getting his pajamas on. I pull his t-shirt off, and see it again: the five-inch scar down the middle of his chest. He has forgotten the surgery, but I haven’t.
One son born with a broken heart; another with a broken mind. I am unlucky, too.
* * *
The beast does not attack Shasta. Instead, it speaks, inviting him to share his sorrows. Shasta explains how he has never known his real father. He was raised like a slave, and when he finally got his freedom, he spent it running from one danger to another, always having to keep his head down, always on the lookout for lions, who kept finding him. And now, here he was, afraid and defenseless, hungry and lost.
The Voice replies, “I do not find you unfortunate.”
The boy is incredulous. “What about the lions?” he asks.
But the stranger corrects him. “You faced only one lion.”
No. That can’t be. Shasta insists that there were more, but the stranger settles the matter with four short words:
“I was the Lion.”
Shasta shutters as the visitor begins to tell him his true history. Even in the harshest circumstances, the Lion had been beside him. Pushing him toward safety. Driving away those who would harm him. Manipulating events so that he could finally reach the peace he always yearned for. The hunter was a friend.
* * *
It is probably foolish to try to buy a house right now. A fenced in yard to protect my autistic son from wandering; a roof that doesn’t leak; sheetrock with no mold… Those are all nice thoughts, but we have debt, and we cannot take on a mortgage anyway. Yes, we are looking into loan possibilities, but we know the reality.
The lady across the table opens our credit report. I brace myself, but she is smiling. Despite our debt, she says, our credit is pristine. She shows me why, referring to page after page of our financial history. We have never had a late payment. This, despite having five children under the age of eleven; despite working for almost ten years as a full time volunteer missionaries.
The revelation dazzles me. In our thirteen years of marriage, we always had at least enough to pay our bills on time and keep our lenders satisfied. Deadlines threatened our empty account so many times, but then a check would appear. A rebate would arrive, or a forgotten commission, and it was always enough to cover our payment. Sometimes to the penny.
I gasped inside. It was the Lion.
My family history then raced before my eyes. How was it that we happened upon best pediatric heart surgeon on the west coast? And two months later, who led us directly to the finest autism specialists in Oregon?
It was the Lion. He had been there the whole time. He placed us in a community of ministers who could love us through our pain, and would hire us even in our frailty. It was He who brought us to a peaceful cottage in a lush, green valley for this season of eventual healing.
* * *
The sun begins to rise, and the clouds melt in front of Shasta. In a few moments, he will find his destination. There will be jolly dwarfs, a big breakfasts, and a place for an extended nap.
I breath easy with him. It has been a long, long night, but the coffee is fresh, and the day is full of promise. My new freelance job will bring in more than what my family needs, and our new home will soon be built. There will be other crises, of course, but they will not cripple me now. I have come out of the spell of dizzying helplessness. I have reached Narnia.
I wonder if my six year old feels it, too, as he climbs onto the special bus for a short day of summer school. He scrunches up his nose with laughter, and together, we wave goodbye to sorrow.
If you have not read Shasta’s whole story in the Chronicles of Narnia, do it now before someone finds out. Get it here: The Horse & His Boy.
_ Image Credit: “Pikes Peak, Fog at Sunset” by cobalt123