Holidays are a time of love, peace, family unity, good smells coming from the kitchen, world peace, and a fluffy bunny for every child.
They are also times of high stress, especially for those who are hosting the inevitable gatherings. Lots of chores, food preparation, and other tasks of varying degrees of pleasantness await those who extend their hospitality to friends and family. All this stress can lead to decidedly unpeaceful feelings, especially on the part of those who are doing the bulk of the work, such as my lovely wife.
The stress has an affect on the rest of us, though, and it can take small annoyances and incidents and blow them up out of proportion. If you’re not careful, your reaction will be disproportionate as well. I had to clamp down on an inappropriate reaction this morning when the shattered glass bowl was neatly laid at my feet for my failure to level the refrigerator yesterday, and the whole experience got me thinking about how, at another time when both of us were less stressed, we’d have been able to cope with the situation in a more civil manner. We have some measure of control over how big of a disaster any given incident is, by choosing how we view the situation and what context we choose to see it in.
Which leads me to the annoyance I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. I challenged you to figure out what exactly about the lyrics of the Rebecca St. James song Lion bothered me. While normally the grammatical issues folks uncovered would bother me, I’m much more forgiving when it comes to song lyrics — it’s hard enough to write decent lyrics without having to be sure you’ve got perfect grammar.
So, much (I’m sure) to the surprise of my readers, my gripe with the lyrics comes from an actual content issue rather than grammar. Specifically, the last line of the chorus bothers me:
This is not a dream that I’m living
This is just a world of Your own
You took me from all that I know
Shown me how it feels to hope
With You with me, facing tomorrow together
I can learn to fly
Feels like I’m living in the lion’s mouth, but the lion is an angel
Remember that we’re talking about songs inspired by The Chronicles of Narnia here, so “the lion” is Aslan. And Aslan is not an angel; He is the Saviour, as the later books make clear. So when I first heard this song, as much as I liked it, I was extremely upset that Rebecca — a musician whose work I have admired for a long time — missed such a basic point. Even though C. S. Lewis hadn’t set out to consciously write Aslan as Christ, it is undeniable that’s how things ended up, and it waters down the impact of the story if Aslan is a mere angel.
A few days after I posted the previous entry, Steph and I were talking about the song and why it irritated me. She was puzzled because she couldn’t really figure out how it related to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. We could match it up in a very generic sense, but neither one of us was satisfied with that interpretation. Steph then realized that the song makes perfect sense…if it’s imagined as being from Eustace’s viewpoint, in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, after he has his first encounter with Aslan.
All at once, Steph’s insight transformed my irritation. Eustace’s endragoning and subsequent restoration — literally, his rebirth as a new creature — has long been one of my favorite parts of the series, even though I personally find Treader to be the weakest book in the series. All that aside, Eustace’s face-to-face meeting with Aslan is a moving experience. Here is this boy who has been raised knowing nothing of church or God, suddenly transported to a world of fantasy and transformed into an ugly beast that displays the greed of his inner heart for all to see — and now, in a moment of pain and honesty, is brought face-to-face with his failings and his weaknesses. In the eyes and paws of this wild lion he finds only love and forgiveness; and is given the opportunity to change his life forever.
In a way, I envy Eustace; unlike so many of us today, his first experience of God is a singularly soul-changing encounter filled not with guilt and accusation, but rather acceptance and redemption. He doesn’t know anything about theology; he doesn’t have the sophisticated religious jargon with which to share his experience and frame his thoughts. Within the borders of his experience, Eustace only knows that he is made new. He doesn’t know the difference between angel and Saviour…he just knows he’s been touched by the supernatural. And he will never be the same.
It only took a moment to find a different context — and now, my irritation with the song has disappeared. Something that two weeks ago was a big disappointment has been swept away in one moment of changed perspective. What other annoyances and roadblocks can we deal with so easily, I wonder?