Monday, October 29, 2007


“Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah,
the Root of David, has triumphed.”
Rev. 5:5

Annie Dilliard, author of Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek, advises us “to wear crash helmets to church because God is a madman. He is not a domesticated puppy, cornered and corralled under our control. He is the wild-maned Lion of Judah, untamable, unchainable.” [1] And Joy Sawyer, in Dancing to the Heartbeat of Redemption, while contemplating a “lifelong spiritual safari,” speaks of a “woolly, holy wonder” that “roars around every corner.”[2]

I don’t know about you, but for me the image of Jesus as a roaring, wild-maned lion is quite intimidating and less than inviting. It’s also hard to reconcile with my long-time favorite image of Jesus as Shepherd. Of course, there is that passage in the Bible that predicts a time when the lion will lay down with the lamb – a popular Christmas card picture – but this is really hard for me to cuddle up to. It’s beyond my comprehension and experience.

Many years ago, my good friend, Lea, who was studying to be an elementary teacher, and avidly devouring children’s literature, introduced me to The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. The “mane” character, Aslan, is an inhabitant of Narnia, an unseen world penetrable only to innocent, imaginative children whose hearts are open to mystery. This delightful fantasy, enjoyed equally by children and adults alike, is rich with spiritual metaphor. The saga of the children’s experiences in Narnia parallels our own “spiritual safari” and relationship with Christ, the Lion of Judah.

I read Narnia before having children and loved it for its wonderful characters and adventure-filled story, as well as for the spiritual message encoded in its imagery. And I have since read it to both of my children when they were young. I think I need to read it again before I put on my crash helmet and go on safari with this madman Annie Dilliard speaks of!

While I can’t remember much of the story line and few of the names of the characters, I do remember the feeling of safety and security that grew in me as I journeyed through Narnia. It was a spiritual safari deeper than I’ve ever traveled into the tangled jungle of trust and faith. Aslan was powerful and scary, but also gentle and loving. My encounter with Aslan, if only as reader and voyeur, nurtured my trust in God, and I wanted my children to know Aslan as a door into understanding God.

I invite you to strap on your crash helmets and venture, however tentatively, into the jungle with a wild-maned madman. I imagine Jesus, the master of metaphor and parable, a broad smile stretched across his face and a twinkle in his eye, exclaiming, “Now, why didn’t I think of that one!”

[1] Dillard, Annie, referenced in Dancing to the Heartbeat of Redemption, by Joy Sawyer, InterVarsity Press, 2000, p. 153.
[2] Sawyer, Joy, Dancing to the Heartbeat of Redemption, InterVarsity Press, 2000, p. 153.

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