Author: Zach Goodrow
It’s been awhile. Too long, I think. But I ask your forgiveness, my life has been hectic. I’ve changed jobs, tried and failed to get back in the gym, and my wife spent some time proclaiming our King on another continent. But I am back now, and hopefully my ideas are better than they were before.
Ironically enough, however, this post is about someone else’s ideas. But his ideas are worth sharing and commenting on, so I will do my best to allow someone else’s ideas shine through my words.
For context, my family has been reading The Chronicles of Narnia recently. My wife has never read the books, it has been some years since I have read them, and my son can’t really read so he just sits there thinking about whatever one-year-old’s think about. For him it is probably when he will get his next meal.
But enough about my kid’s relentless appetite. Let me move on to something else that is relentless; C.S. Lewis’s ability to marry theology and fiction. I think a stunning example of his gift can be summed up in this story.
Narnia: A Summary
In the second book of the Narnia series, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, the four Pevensie children witness Aslan come back from his prolonged absence in which the White Witch has frozen everything.
As Aslan’s power warms the country, Peter begins training for a battle against the White Witch and all her terrible forces. But this boy has never fought in a battle before, so he is at best unexperienced and at worst doomed to die at the hands of the powerful witch. He has some confidence, though, because Aslan is there. And though she is powerful, her power is bound by her location. She can only freeze those things around her; Aslan can warm a continent just by stepping ashore. So the boy isn’t as scared as he could be.
So the story goes, as Aslan is explaining the battle plans, they hear the distress call of Susan’s horn. They sprint over to Susan and find her and their little sister Lucy treed by a snarling wolf. With bristling hair and snapping jaws, the wolf tries to kill the Daughters of Eve. Naturally, Peter steps into the fray with his sword drawn to make the wolf focus on him.
But here’s where the story takes a strange turn.
Aslan’s army heard the horn as well, but they were further away than Peter and Aslan. So when they all arrive, they see Peter and the wolf circling one another with Aslan standing near by. And just when we think the army of Aslan, or Aslan himself, will step in to slay the wolf, Aslan commands his forces to stand down. He says, “Stop. The Prince must earn his spurs.”
So Peter must fight alone. Which he does well because he saves his sister and kills the wolf. But still, why not give him help in his fight?
Modern Princes and Their Spurs
I believe C.S. Lewis meant us to ask this question ourselves. Aslan could’ve torn the wolf apart with ease. His army would have flayed the wolf in seconds. So why let one man fight alone? This is where theology meets literature.
I think the reasons Aslan, and the One he was written to represent, let Peter (and by extension us) fight and kill the wolf by himself are clear, but need some explanation.
The first is this. Aslan will not be there at the start of the upcoming battle against the Witch. Peter does not know that, but Aslan does. He knows that though the battle is important, the outcome would be pointless unless he accomplished what he knew must be done. That is, Aslan must die, so that all of Narnia may know life. He, of course, knows he will come back, but that will be after Peter has begun fighting.
Aslan also means to cure Peter of any naivety. To Peter, war is still just a game. A lofty idea where one can go and prove himself and earn valor. And because he has the wonderful Aslan on his side, he thinks that the war will be easily won. Which, to be fair, it will be. But not until after it is over. Aslan knows that a war is coming, and in this war, more than just wolves will come after Peter and he must be prepared when they do. The battle is Aslan’s, that much is obvious. But it will not end until he says it does. And until then, Peter must fight with all of his life.
The third, and last for our purposes, reason Aslan let Peter stand alone against the wolf is because Aslan knew Peter would grow up to become king. And as king, Aslan knew Peter would have more wolves to fight, both literal and metaphorical, in his kingdom so Peter needed to know how to deal with wolves.
Here’s why this matters to us. We are Peter in this story. We have the mighty king Jesus on our side, so our battle is decided. But he has not said that the battle is over yet, so we must keep fighting with all of our life until it is.
We also must not be naive about the battle in front of us. The fight we are in is not a game of Risk that we can all go home safely after playing. For two thousand years we have been fighting a winning battle, but that does not mean that we are without bloodshed. So we must know our enemy and his schemes.
Finally, we must learn how to handle wolves. This means that we must voluntarily confront the bristling beasts at our door knowing all the while that the battle will only go on as long as Jesus allows. This also means that we must know enough about wolves to be able to recognize them when they masquerade as sheep.
This also means that for those of us who happen to be raising future kings and queens, our princes must earn their spurs. We cannot fight all of our kids’ battles. If our princes are to be of any worth to the kingdom (or to their future queens for that matter) when they become kings, they have to know how to fight a wolf.
We cannot allow ourselves to protect our kids so much that they become pathetic. We are at war after all, and our princes have spurs to earn for the sake of the kingdom. So let us quit pretending that the enemy will treat them fairly or gently. Quit using the characteristics of our king to lull you into believing that the enemy king has the same traits.
He is the dragon that the wolves obey. We and our kids need to understand how to fight the wolves without fearing the dragon. Because though we must resist the dragons power, it is not our job to slay him. That feat will be accomplished by our Lion King. But until that glorious day, our princes must earn their spurs.