My favorite book in the Chronicles of Narnia was A Horse and His Boy, but a close second was The Last Battle, and this is the story that I want to focus on today. In the book, Lewis hits a nerve that stayed with me for years. If you have not read The Last Battle, you definitely should, because it is amazing like the rest of the series. For the sake of those that haven’t, I’ll fill in some of the gaps. Narnia essentially is about children discovering the magical world of Aslan, a Lion that is a facsimile of Jesus. In The Last Battle, Aslan has not been seen for some time, and some rotten shysters come up with a ruse to impersonate Aslan by dressing a donkey in a lion skin to gain food and later renown. However, as the story morphs, “Aslan” becomes “Tashlan” a mixture of the Calorman god Tash and fake Aslan. By the end of the story, Tashlan is overthrown during a battle between Narnians, Calormans, and Dwarves.
This is where we pick up. After the battle is over and all are thrown into the stable out of which no one returns, the heroes of the story discover that they are in the country of Aslan, resplendent with greenery, fruits, and warm yellow sun. Those that resisted Aslan – the real Aslan – fell victim to the destruction of the world of Narnia. However, there was one group caught in the middle, a curmudgeonly band of dwarves recalcitrant beyond all hope, which was stuck in the stable in the midst of the country of Aslan.
The dwarves were huddled in a group in the field, unawares that they are in a field and not in a pitch dark stable. The group tries to reason with them and tell them to come out of the stable and see the great land of Aslan and dine on the delicious food. However, each remark is met with a retort similar in tone to, “Of course you’d know I was smoking ‘baccy, anyone would know the smell. Don’t take eyes to see that.” When given food they confuse wine with dirty trough water and sandwiches for hay. Their whole vision is limited to the confines of what they believe they are trapped inside. Indeed, the king even says they are stuck in the prison of their own mind. The key that turned the lock to catch the dwarves inside was a line they kept repeating over and over, “We Dwarves are for the Dwarves. We won’t be taken in again.”
I have been these dwarves. I refused to be taken in ever again.
In fact, I think many of us have, whether we want to admit it or not. We invest in a cause for it to only come back to hurt us. Similarly, we grow in intimacy with a friend to have them betray our trust. These things create wedges between us, the groups we work with, the people we care about – and with God. We enter the state of mind that we refuse to be taken in again and withhold our love from people.
In my life, I have withheld love and intimacy with friends because of hurt that I experienced in my life. I had a friend who I allowed to emotionally manipulate me and make me feel put down and dejected. I hurt daily at the rebukes, corrections, and rejections. I loved my friends so deeply that I refused to see the wrong until it was too late, and I was driven too far down the road to seek reconciliation. I broke off the friendship once the insults and disrespect exceeded my limit. I never said how much it hurt, why I refused to speak with him, or anything else. I thought I had won the battle and redeemed part of my soul.
I was wrong.
For years after this event, I struggled with developing deep friendships and trusting people beyond a superficial level. I wore masks to keep people at bay, and I developed intricate layers of lies and secrets to keep people from knowing how much, or if I cared. I told people what they wanted to hear, or what I wanted them to know. I was never fully known, and I locked myself out of the beauty of intimate and deep relationships with others and also with God. I couldn’t grow deep with God because I feared rejection because of my sin. I didn’t even want God to know or forgive me of grave wrongs.
I robbed myself of God and heaven – just like the dwarves.
Only when I had friends leave, relationships falter, and people grow cold and taciturn did I realize I needed to reconcile some of these relationships. I needed to allow God to unshackle me from my prison to walk with Him in his fields and experience real and profound relationships. My bitterness led to stubbornness, and my stubbornness refused to allow me to be taken in again. It wasn’t until I let God take me back in and crash my walls did I recover.
If you’ve built up walls to keep people out, let God tear them down. His love cannot show through if you keep your heart walled in. If you refuse to be taken in, you will get what you wish. Hebrews 12:15 warns us to watch out for a root of bitterness taking up in our hearts. In all of this warning, God gives us a way out. The same God that will leave us in our bitterness will also give us the grace to come out of it. The same verse in Hebrews mentioned above also emphasizes the importance of grace in both avoiding pain and getting past it. Take grace into your heart, see opportunities for grace in others, and you will find freedom from the pain that bitterness brings.
I needed to allow God to unshackle me from my prison to walk with Him in his fields and experience real and profound relationships.