C.S. Lewis is a master storyteller. When I was young, I probably appreciated his stories more for the action and fantasy. Now, I appreciate reading his fictional stories for the same reason that I enjoy reading Lewis’ non-fiction: He gives me greater insight into who I am with Christ and who I am without Christ.
Somehow, I managed to make it through childhood without reading through The Chronicles of Narnia, even though we seemed to have several copies of every book on the shelves in our house. Right now, I teach The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe to the sixth graders here at Rift Valley Academy, and we have our classroom decked out with Senior Banquet props from this year: stone statues from the Witch’s courtyard.
I recently read through The Magician’s Nephew, and I was struck with C.S. Lewis’ characterization of Queen Jadis, long before she became the White Witch of Narnia. The book tells of young Digory and Polly who are tricked by Digory’s Uncle Andrew into a magical journey to another world called Charn where they find and awaken the Queen. The children soon realize how wicked she is, and they try to devise a way to return to London without her tagging along. But Charn is an old expired world, and the witch wants a new, younger world to conquer and rule. Despite their best efforts to shrug her off, the children are unable to do so. Jadis latches onto them as they return magically to Earth, and they all end up back in Uncle Andrew’s study.
Mistakenly believing that Digory’s Uncle Andrew is a powerful magician, Jadis orders the uncle to do her bidding. At her command, Lewis writes, he runs off “like a dog with its tail between its legs.” The children, Digory and Polly, are now alone with the witch and fearful she is going to punish them for trying to push her away as they were returning through the wormhole back to London.
Here I pick up C.S. Lewis’ narrative:
“Now that she was left alone with the children, she took no notice of either of them. And that was like her too. In Charn she had taken no notice of Polly (till the very end) because Digory was the one she wanted to make use of. Now that she had Uncle Andrew, she took no notice of Digory. I expect most witches are like that. They are not interested in things or people unless they can use them; they are terribly practical.“
If this is how C.S. Lewis imagines witches, then they are extremely self-absorbed and only concerned with establishing their own rule and their own kingdom. The witch wasn’t even concerned with taking revenge on the children for their attempts to escape her. She had a single-minded focus on her goals and her plans. If somebody got in her way, she would destroy them, but if somebody could help her, she would use and manipulate them.
And then it occurred to me just how very much like a witch I can be. The nature of sin is for me to turn in on myself, pursue my own goals, desires and dreams according to the means of my choosing. When somebody gets in the way of my pursuits, I get angry and resentful. When somebody can help me get what I want, they are my best friend. The Four Spiritual Laws describes this as “the self-directed life” where Self is on the throne.
How often do I, like C.S. Lewis’ witches, attempt to use people to get what I want? Sometimes this is simply revealed in the way I talk to people, manipulating them with my words. Any time I use anger, flattery, guilt or shame in the way I treat others in order to get them to do what “I” want, then I am, in a very real sense, being “wicked”. This applies to the way I treat the shopkeeper, vendor, employee, boss, student, teacher, volunteer, friend, child, parent and spouse. This applies to all our relationships.
When we respond to people with patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control motivated by a heart of love, we know that we have become new creations.
This chapel message was delivered to the student body of the Rift Valley Academy on May 22, 2015.