Because I am now a father, I have the joy of experiencing how potent literature can be across generations. As a boy, in the dim light of my bedroom, my father read Chronicles of Narnia to me and my brother (who still reads it once a year). I remember hanging off my mattress, mesmerized, staring at the white closet doors as I heard each word being read. It is a beautiful memory for me.
Now, I am reading it to my son, Isaac, who is only four years old. I thought he would not be able to understand it well at his age, but I was very wrong. He’s captivated, just as I was. He recounts what we’ve read to my wife the next day, and asks questions throughout each chapter, picking up vocabulary words that kids twice his age probably don’t know. I’ve been more amazed at his reception of the story than I have been at rediscovering Lewis’s brilliance.
Towards the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, we came to the climax of the plot, the height of tension where Aslan gives himself for Edmund but then raises from the dead and defeats Queen Jadis (the witch), the selfish and power-hungry nemesis of the one who created Narnia.
I was about to tell Isaac about the relationship between Aslan and Jesus Christ, but then I stopped myself. I was puzzled by this in the moment. Why didn’t I say anything? Should I have told him?
After a few moments, I realized I had made the right decision. Don’t misunderstand me; I want my son to see the power and redemptive beauty of the gospel in great works of literature. But for him to see it, he has to discover it. The effect of making that connection between Scripture and Lewis’s story is not something I want to take from him by offering it freely. I want him to find it. I want him to see the world and its myriad connections through his own eyes.
That, in short, is why I didn’t tell him about Aslan and Jesus Christ. He might already know about the connection. I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough. But when he does make the connection, it will be something he has discovered, not something that was handed to him. And my hope, my suspicion, is that he will cling more tightly to what he has found than he will to what is given. Of course, the gospel is, quintessentially, something given, but in another sense it is owned by all of us when we personally discover our great need for it, not when someone simply tells us to take it. Jesus Christ, like Aslan, will mean the most to Isaac when he personally sees Jesus for himself, in all of his depth and beauty. The roar of Aslan will ring louder in his ears when he learns on his own that Christ’s voice makes silent every whisper and threat of the devil.