Suffering with Aslan

I’ve been slowly reading through The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with my daughters before bedtime. I’ve tried reading through it a few other time but they never seemed immediately interested so I would set it aside and come back to it later. It finally clicked and they were very interested in Lucy, Narnia, Mr. Tumnus, and the mysterious Aslan.

We finally arrived at the climatic death scene of Aslan last night and I was watching my daughter’s reactions closely. I wanted to see how they would respond upon reading that Aslan dies without knowing he would rise up. I wasn’t expecting much of a response on my end because I’ve read the story multiple times, but alas I was wrong. I was moved. I shouldn’t be all that surprised. It’s just that kind of story.

One detail stood out in reading The Lion this time around. Lucy and Susan can’t sleep. They sense some thing is wrong with Aslan. They see his demeanor has changed. His is now solemn and sad after agreeing to sacrifice himself for Edmund (unknown to anyone else). They decided to search for Aslan and find him walking away from camp towards the Stone Table.

They follow behind as Aslan head down walked towards his impending death. Eventually he spots them. Lewis writes,

“Oh, children, children, why are you following me?”

“We couldn’t sleep,” said Lucy - and then felt sure that she need say no more and that Aslan knew all they had been thinking.

“Please, may we come with you - wherever you’re going?” asked Susan.

“Well -” said Aslan, and seemed to be thinking. Then he said, “I should be glad of company tonight. Yes, you may come, if you will promise to stop when I tell you, and after that leave me to go on alone.”

So they walk quietly together and Aslan is in such deep thought and filled with grief that he stumbles and moan. The girls are certain some thing terrible is going to happen and cry out:

“Aslan! Dear Aslan!” said Lucy, “what is wrong? Can’t you tell us?”

“Are you ill, dear Aslan?” asked Susan.

“No,” said Aslan. “I am sad and lonely. Lay your hands on my mane so that I can feel you are there and let us walk like that.”

And so the girls did what they would never have dared to do without his permission, but what they had longed to do ever since they first saw him buried their cold hands in the beautiful sea of fur and stroked it and, so doing, walked with him. ”

Upon reading this section, it reminded me how beautifully and terrifyingly Lewis grasp the turmoil of Jesus as He’s in the garden preparing to suffering. Aslan here is sad and and despondent. The grief in this scene is palpable. The detail that stood out to me was Aslan’s request, “Lay your hand on my mane so that I can feel you are there and let us walk like that.”

There’s an important truth here that fellowship, friendship, and love make suffering bearable. I’m sure the request was as much for Aslan as it was for the Lucy and Susan. We all suffer in this present world. It may be cancer, death, abuse, sexual assault, adultery, persecution.

It may be the building disappointments of an ordinary life. But we must realize our suffering isn’t unique. It’s common to humanity and others have walked the path we walk. In particular and most amazing, Jesus has walked the path of suffering we are walking.

Can you hear him say, “Lay your hand in my mane”? Lay hold tightly and walk with him. We are united with Christ in suffering.

You are, therefore, not alone. Aslan walks besides you. Every time you walk the path of suffering you walk with Him as He suffered. He went before us. We follow him. He is our prototype and he suffered. Should we expect anything less?

But it’s never alone, dear saint. It’s never a solitary walk--no matter how you feel. He always walks beside us. We always feebly cling to his mane. Is there any greater comfort?