It is difficult to leave, to walk out the door onto the road and all that uncertainty, to leave the familiar and walk into the unknown, but it’s what any of us are called to, even as Jill and Eustace are called in The Silver Chair.
This is that C.S. Lewis story where these two children are called to the road to rescue the lost Prince Rilian, son of King Caspian, who was kidnapped by the Emerald Witch and is being held prisoner in an underground lair.
In preparing the children for this job in Narnia, the Great Lion Aslan gives Jill four signs to memorize, then this warning:
“Remember, remember, remember the Signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lay down at night and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the Signs. And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly. I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain the air is clear and your minds is clear as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the Signs which you have learned here will not look at all like you expect them to look when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay not attention to appearances. Remember the Signs and believe the Signs. Nothing else matters.”
Jill and Eustace don’t remember the signs, of course, at least not perfectly, and like yours and mine would, their heads get all muddled once down on the road and in the thick air away from the mountaintop and its clear view.
This gets them in all sorts of troubles on the road, even as life for any of us is full of one trouble or another, whether due to our own muddled-headedness or the general stubbornness and malaise of the world we live in.
But we are called, nonetheless, each of us, to one quest or another, and this is both the beauty and the terror of life on the road.
(It has to have both beauty and terror, because with only beauty we would not be stretched, we would not grow into who we are meant to become, and with only terror, we would lose heart and lose courage and hope and turn into the dark shadows that threaten to consume us.)
Today, New Years Day, is a good day to think about this, a day when the Children’s Mother and I are away by ourselves for a respite, this time on The Nile River with a tent at night and a few books and good food and plenty of sunshine by day.
For us, as a couple and as parents and as travellers far from home, it’s a time to look both behind us and forward and say, in relation to that road, here we are: this where we’ve been and this is where, by God’s grace, we still hope to go.
The thoughts from The Silver Chair are part of the reading we’ve brought along, and it’s also a story our children know from the past year during our daily morning school runs.
In a few days, there will be more school runs and more stories and more roads, even as you will continue life on your own road, continue your unique journey, your calling, your very God-given quest, even if that is as mundane as getting up in the morning and asking, what now?
So be encouraged. Be strengthened. Remember the old signs (even as you can expect new ones), remember them in the lowlands (even as you’ve been encouraged by them in the mountains reaching into heaven). Walk in the light. Live in the truth (and The Truth), because there is such a thing in a world that would deny truth because of one fear or another.
This is the message that we have for our growing children, even as it’s the message for anyone with the courage to say, “Here I am. Send me. Send me on the road of Your choosing so that I can find not only others who are lost, and not only myself who can get equally turned around, but so that even at my age I can still grow and find things never expected or imagined, not the least of which is the unexpected joy of home itself.”