I'm re-reading the Chronicles of Narnia right now with my son Daniel who is 7-years-old. It's been 25 years probably since I've read these books, and while I'm not generally a fantasy genre guy, and while they are written for children, I'm finding my heart gripped at different points.
In my last couple sermons from John 6, we've talked about how Jesus beckons us to come to him for life, promising to never cast us out; how He invites us to feed on him as the true bread life who alone can satisfy the appetites of our soul; and how He responds to some of the reasons we can't, won't and don't come to him. This reminded me of a passage from The Silver Chair, one of the books in the Narnia series.
A girl named Jill has ended up in the woods of this strange world, Narnia, with her friend Eustace. She has wandered away from Eustace and finds herself lost, scared and dehydrated. She is becomes desperately thirsty and in her search for water, she finally hears a stream. The following excerpt is what I've been thinking on:
The wood was so still that it was not difficult to decide where the sound was coming from. It grew clearer every moment and, sooner than she expected, she came to an open glade and saw the stream, bright as glass, running across the turf a stone's throw away from her. But although the sight of water made her feel ten times thirstier than before, she didn’t rush forward and drink. She stood as still as if she had been turned into stone, with her mouth wide open. And she had a very good reason: just on this side of the stream lay the lion.
“If I run away, it’ll be after me in a moment,” thought Jill. “And if I go on, I shall run straight into its mouth.” Anyway, she couldn’t have moved if she had tried, and she couldn’t take her eyes off it. How long this lasted, she could not be sure; it seemed like hours. And the thirst became so bad that she almost felt she would not mind being eaten by the lion if only she could be sure of getting a mouthful of water first.
“If you’re thirsty, you may drink." For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken.
"If you are thirsty, come and drink.”
She had seen its lips move this time, and the voice was not like a man's. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in a rather different way.
"Are you not thirsty?" said the Lion.
"I'm dying of thirst," said Jill.
"Then drink," said the Lion.
"May I- could I - would you mind going away while I do?" said Jill.
The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl... The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
“Will you promise not to – do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.
“I make no promise,” said the Lion.
"Do you eat girls?" she said.
"I have swallowed up girls and boys, men and women, kings and emperors, cities and realms," said the Lion. It didn't say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were anger. It just said it.
“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.
“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.
It never occurred to Jill to disbelieve the Lion – no one who had seen his stern face could do that – and her mind suddenly made itself up. It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping up water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted. You didn’t need to drink much of it, for it quenched your thirst at once.
I know many of us, and many of those we know - our neighbors and coworkers and workout buddies and family members - are dying of thirst, searching frantically for a stream from which to find relief. In the gospel, the sound of rippling waters running can be heard, however faint it may seem. You can keep anxiously searching, but the rustling of the leaves and the crackling of the twigs will drown out the gentle waters of grace which are flowing not far off.
Or you can cease from all your striving, quiet your busy mind, silence your busy heart, and listen out for that sound of your rest and renewal, and you may just hear it off in the distance. If you'll give your attention to the gospel, and draw near to the life that it promises; if you'll just put one foot steadily in front of the other, each moment moving closer to that relief which you have only imagined but which is now suddenly within reach; you may just find the source of nourishment and satisfaction your soul has longed for.
Like Jill, once you find that spring that leads to life, you will have to face a Lion who could bring about your death. It's one thing to hear the stream and see the stream and even long for the stream, but it's another thing altogether to go drink from the stream.
We all face a decision when confronted with the gospel. Will we keep our distance, look on from the periphery and go on searching for another source of water? Or, will we move beyond the proposition or possibility represented by the gospel, toward the Person revealed in the gospel?
Brothers and sisters, make no mistake, to move toward this stream of grace is scary and uncomfortable. If coming to Jesus feels vulnerable, than you’re probably understanding the stakes, because coming to Jesus makes you vulnerable. He threatens everything you cling to and he may just ravage everything you hold dear. Nothing of your ordinary life is safe, in Jesus, but that’s because Jesus is inviting you to move beyond your ordinary life, to the life he actually created you for.
Jesus doesn't beg us to come, but he does bid us come. It may not be easy, but it will be refreshing. He doesn't promise it won't hurt us, but he does promise it will heal us. He doesn't even guarantee it won't kill us, but he does promise we will live.
You can search far and wide yourself, or point to other places; you can look anywhere else, everywhere else or to anything else; you can doubt, question or fear what his agenda really is or what the end result will be for you; you can listen out for, look for, or hold out for something else, something better; you can hope for refreshing from any other source; but beloved, at the end of day, we are faced with this one truth... there is no other stream.