Lately I’ve been surprised at how hard it can be to trust in the good guys.
My wife and I have been reading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe to our oldest daughter, who has been surprisingly excited about the story. Of course, she is four, and her attention span is what you’d expect, so it frequently takes us a few days to make it through even one chapter. The slow pace is worth it, since we’re excited to introduce our daughter to the incredible characters in the story, especially Aslan.
Yet another character has drawn most of our daughter’s attention: she is afraid of the witch.
Every time we sit down to read the book, she is full of anxious questions:
When are we going to see the witch next?
Is it chapter nine yet?
Where’s the witch? Is that the witch?
My favorite, though, is when she simply says, “I don’t like the witch. The witch scares me.”
And the witch is scary. Stories can be scary, and the best ones get us off-balance, leading us to believe that something is actually at stake in the story. That something really bad could happen.
For my daughter, the witch’s presence feels like a real threat. My initial impulse was to keep reminding her that the witch isn’t real; she’s a character in a book. But my daughter saw a deeper truth and asked, “But what if she gets out of the book? What if she comes and gets me?”
That made me pause.
Just because something is fictional doesn’t mean it isn’t real, or that it doesn’t reflect some deeper truth. My daughter’s question wasn’t childish: it was insightful. Though the witch only exists in the book, the world is full of other scary things coming to get us. And, just like my daughter can’t walk through Narnia without fear of the witch, I find I can’t walk through this life without fear dominating my thoughts and troubling my heart.
As I looked down at my daughter, trembling at the thought of the scary witch, I realized that even fictional stories can tell a deep truth!
And then I remembered that Narnia holds a greater truth than the witch.
So I drew her close, held her tight, and whispered in her ear: “You wanna know a secret?” Looking at me from behind watery eyes, she nodded.
“I know the end of the story. And guess what? The witch loses. Aslan wins. Aslan will always win.”
For a moment, she looked back at me with uncertainty—not because she doubted Aslan, but because the fear of the witch felt so much more real. Without knowing the end of the story, without knowing Aslan’s goodness and power, it’s easy to lose hope and feel abandoned to the witch.
On the other hand, knowing the end of the story—that whatever happens, whatever the witch may do, in the end Aslan wins—has equipped my daughter to be brave enough for the scary parts of the story.
Frankly, I need the same reminder. I often get distracted and scared in the midst of rather troubling stories, and forget that in the end, Jesus wins.
Jesus will always win.
Remembering the strength, the power, the goodness, and the faithfulness of Jesus Christ should embolden my life, because this should give me the courage to deal with the scary things, because they’re just tangents and distractions.
Ultimately, the story of salvation is all about God’s goodness.
This Sunday, the Gospel reading is about a good King who is throwing a wedding banquet for his son. He extends an open and generous invitation saying “Behold, I have made ready my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves are killed, and everything is ready; come to the marriage feast!” (Matt. 22:4)
Unfortunately, those who initially receive the invitation are simply uninterested, too busy to attend, or they are hostile to the invitation of the generous King. So none of them come. The benevolent King then opens the invitation to anyone who wants to come, “both bad and good; so the wedding hall was filled with guests” (Matt 22:10).
He invites everyone to come. Both the bad and the good. Remarkable!
But then the story troubles me:
But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness. Matt. 22:11-13
This part of the reading always baffled me. Didn’t the King literally just invite this guy to the party? Now he’s kicking him out? Is God going to kick us out of heaven if we didn’t prepare well enough?!
Unfortunately, it’s misunderstandings like this that can take our initial fear of the witch and turn it into fear of Aslan. It can take our initial fear of evil and turn it into fear of God.
You see, God does expect us to be clothed appropriately for His Kingdom. And He provides this garment in baptism, where we are clothed in Christ and receive Holy Communion for the first time. Just like in this Gospel reading, we put on the wedding garment, and we partake of the marriage feast.
When we read about people being kicked out for wearing the wrong clothes, we forget that the demanding King at the end of the story is the same King who welcomed everybody to the party, who wants us all at His table.
He is the same King who offers us wedding garments if we just ask.
Christ wins, and He invites us all into His victory.
The problem is that we come to the marriage feast expecting that our own garments are good enough.
But they aren’t.
No amount of clothing myself in my own good works, no amount of trusting in my own righteousness, no amount of making myself seem like a good person is going to make my garment fit for the eternal feast of Christ.
We forget that we are not the ones who defeat the witch. We’re too overwhelmed by thoughts of scary things, and memories of our sins, to remember the truth about God.
Well, I have another secret: God already knows about our sins, and He has invited us to the wedding feast of His Son and His Bride, the Church, anyway.
He has promised that He will clothe us in Himself—His righteousness, His glory, His holiness. He has promised to clothe us appropriately for the Feast.
But we must remember that He is a good and gracious Host, happy to clothe us if we ask. Though our enemy is terrible, he is no match for our Lord. Though we are faced with overwhelming trials on a daily basis, none can overcome our King. No matter how scary the story gets, we must remember that it ends with us at God’s table.
We must remember that Christ wins. Christ will always win.
Aslan: Adam Foster Photography via Compfight cc
RSVP: Sarah Parrott via Compfight cc
Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.
Stay tuned for upcoming announcements and opportunities to serve the King, including this upcoming REAL Weekend: