There are some books that come at just the right time for me to read or re-read. They have great impact and staying power as I linger over the substance weeks after I’ve finished the book. Usually they are books of encouragement and inspiration. It is a bonus if the book is fiction filled to the brim with originality, imagination, and creativity. One such author who can do that is C.S. Lewis.
I am a C.S. Lewis fan, specifically for his beloved children’s series The Chronicles of Narnia. It’s more my speed and depth. Every year I pick up a few of the books to read through just for fun. There are seven total. This month I enjoyed reading “The Last Battle” that is the final installment in the series. Some argue book one, “The Magician’s Nephew” should be read last and not first but I prefer to stick to the sequential order (rule follower: guilty as charged). If you have never read The Chronicles of Narnia series I recommend starting at the beginning and work your way through.
Lewis provides so much symbolism packed in these books I become giddy with excitement fangirling over…..stories! I was a little surprised how much I loved this book since the last time I read it because it used to be my least favorite. Lewis beautifully parallels the Christian life to the world of Narnia. The Pevensie children, Digory, Polly, Eustace, and Jill lead similar adventures like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress. Aslan, the Great Lion, serves as the Christ figure and he physically appears in and out of the books, as needed, but the belief in him always remains. Just like the fingerprints of God are revealed in our stories, so it is with Aslan over Narnia. His supernatural presence is always there even when he is not.
In “The Last Battle” the setting takes place during the last days of Narnia. Perhaps that is why I picked up this book in particular because it feels like we’re living in the last days of Sodom and Gomorrah right now. From chapter one we learn that a deceitful, wicked ape named Shift decides to create his own Aslan with the help of an ignorant easily deceived donkey called Puzzle. Puzzle becomes the puppet for Shift posing as the great lion himself. (False prophets anyone?)
The Narnians, who are mostly talking animals and mythical creatures, follow blindly out of fear or because they truly believe they are obeying Aslan’s orders. The majority of them do this despite the contradictions they see in Aslan’s character, what little they know of him or have been taught. Their hope, knowledge, and faith in the true Aslan is not firm, therefore the Narnians are easily swayed.
So I won’t give the whole book away, I’ll just hit the highlights of my favorite parts of the book. Namely, the last few chapters where Lewis opens the doors to the new Narnia are mesmerizing. It makes me think of heaven and I love it. Just even the teeniest tiniest insight to what that might be like is wonderful to meditate on. The last chapter of the last book of his series is by far the greatest masterpiece in children’s literature in my (very) humble opinion. Lewis brings a simple understanding to how this world is but a faint copy of what is to come. Heaven already exists even though we cannot physically see it yet, so this earth foreshadows something even greater.
One day our faith will be made sight and I believe our senses will not even be able to handle it as we all fall flat on our faces, so unworthy, but so accepted and loved by God. It will be unlike what we expected but so much better and glorious. The comforting theme I take away from “The Last Battle” is that this world is not our home and this is not the end, just the beginning. This is where our salvation and sanctification occur but the actual life we have belongs in heaven. The writer of Hebrews says the men and women of faith who have gone before us “admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth […] Instead, they were longing for a better country- a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (11:13d; 16).
When we become discouraged because the earth is so worn out, people revel in wickedness, and believers are left weary, take heart friend. The battle has already been won for us. This is how the narrator describes the ending to the story and coincidentally a summation of what believers can look forward to as we wait in eager expectation for what is to be:
“And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before” (228).
Grace upon grace,