Come Further Up, Come Further In!

the last battle

by Neil Anderson, Head of School

We are nearing the end of Narnia. Three years ago, we began the journey through the Chronicles during lunch time. We’ve read at least one book every semester since. I doubt it has been as enjoyable for the students as it has been for me, but I do hope they have had fun.

Next week we will read chapter 15 of the The Last Battle, which contains one of my favorite passages:

It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this.You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking-glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking-glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different–deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know. The difference between the old Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can’t describe it any better than that: if you ever get there you will know what I mean.

It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right forehoof on the ground and neighed, and then cried:

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!”

This passage contains one of the main reasons we read Narnia in the first place. We pray that our students will catch a glimpse of that deeper country within their course of study. Lewis is attempting himself, through these books, to be that mirror in which we might catch a reflection of this country in which everything means more.

Lewis likes windows and door, they are prevalent in his literature. In An Experiment On Criticism, while pondering what the good is in reading stories, Lewis writes:

The nearest I have yet got to an answer is that we seek an enlargement of our being. We want to be more than ourselves. We want to see with other eyes, to imagine with other imaginations, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own. We demand windows, and literature is a series of windows….that admit us to experiences other than our own.… in reading great literature I become a thousand other men and yet remain myself.

In this particular instance, there is a hope that these make-believe adventures in Narnia will help to stimulate a healthy longing. Have you ever tried to answer questions about heaven for your children and felt as if every word you uttered has done a great disservice to your child’s image of heaven? Sometimes we need the help of men and women, in whom God has planted a bigger/deeper picture of the Kingdom of God and who are gifted to put it on display for us through literature, music, art, film, etc. This is the Holy Spirit’s work, and we know he does not need our art forms to reveal himself, but it seems he is happy to use them.

The unicorn declares, “I have come home at last! This is my real country!”  reminding us that there is a land that we were made for, and the soil we are standing on is not it. Education as data absorbing/dispensing is not a very catalytic enterprise for the average student. Education as a quest for our true home is a significantly more compelling endeavor. We are looking for the signs, listening for the sounds, and trying to learn the ways of that future kingdom, which will be our home.

These passages are rich. They never fail in calling me further up and further in. I know some of you are bitter towards me because I am reading Narnia at school before you could get to it at home. But I would say, read and reread! If you have the books at home, read the final chapters of The Last Battle over again next week with your children, they contain lines that are worth dwelling on and discussing. Use them as a catalyst for digging into the Scriptures, reading the descriptions of the last days in Revelation, reading Jesus’ words when he explains what the Kingdom of God is like.

Come further up, come further in TCS families!

And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God – Mark 4:11