Of Mice & Marshwiggles – Day 17 – Meetings
Setting the Scene: To help them in their task Jill and Eustace are sent to the Marshwiggle Puddleglum who has a ‘glass more than half-empty’ view on life. Puddleglum is cooking a meal for them whilst they discuss their plans.
‘Now,’ said Puddleglum. ‘Those eels will take a mortal long time to cook, and either of you might faint with hunger before they’re done. I knew a little girl – but I’d better not tell you that story. It might lower your spirits, and that’s a thing I never do. So, to keep your minds off your hunger, we may as well talk about our plans.’
‘Yes, do let’s,’ said Jill. ‘Can you help us to find Prince Rilian?’
The Marshwiggle sucked in his cheeks till they were hollower than you would have thought possible. ‘Well, I don’t know that you’d call it help,’ he said. ‘I don’t know that anyone can exactly help. It stands to reason we’re not likely to get very far on a journey to the North, not at this time of the year, with the winter coming on soon and all. And an early winter too, by the look of things. But you mustn’t let that make you down-hearted. Very likely, what with enemies, and mountains, and rivers to cross, and losing our way, and next to nothing to eat, and sore feet, we’ll hardly notice the weather. And if we don’t get far enough to do any good, we may get far enough not to get back in a hurry.’
Both children noticed that he said ‘we’, not ‘you’, and both exclaimed at the same moment. ‘Are you coming with us?’
‘Oh yes, I’m coming of course. Might as well, you see. I don’t suppose we shall ever see the King back in Narnia, now that he’s once set off for foreign parts; and he had a nasty cough when he left. Then there’s Trumpkin. He’s failing fast. And you’ll find there’ll have been a bad harvest after this terrible dry summer. And I shouldn’t wonder if some enemy attacked us. Mark my words.’
The Silver Chair – Chapter 5 – Puddleglum (© C.S. Lewis)
If you are not familiar with the world of the Marshwiggle you might be surprised to find that one of the reasons Puddleglum was sent on this task with Jill and Eustace was because he was considered to be a somewhat hasty chap. Here is what the other Marshwiggles have to say about his own character.
‘Don’t you lose heart, Pole,’ said Puddleglum. ‘I’m coming, sure and certain. I’m not going to lose an opportunity like this. It will do me good. They all say – I mean, the other wiggles all say-that I’m too flighty; don’t take life seriously enough. If they’ve said it once, they’ve said it a thousand times. ‘Puddleglum,’ they’ve said, `you’re altogether too full of bobance and bounce and high spirits. You’ve got to learn that life isn’t all fricasseed frogs and eel pie. You want something to sober you down a bit. We’re only saying it for your own good, Puddleglum.’ That’s what they say. Now a job like this – a journey up north just as winter’s beginning, looking for a Prince that probably isn’t there, by way of a ruined city that no one has ever seen – will be just the thing. If that doesn’t steady a chap, I don’t know what will.’ And he rubbed his big frog-like hands together as if he were talking of going to a party or a pantomime.
If Puddleglum had to complete a Census form I am absolutely convinced he would put a large tick in the religion page under ‘C of E’. On the other hand he may just have put a small mark in the correct box – a large tick would be just a tad too enthusiastic! For me this gentle cautious Marshwiggle (overflowing with ‘bobance and bounce’) seems to be an archetype of so many things that represent the outsider’s view of the Church of England.
Some of us will see echoes of his character in our fellow congregants and, on days when I have spent far too much time staring at the Church Representation Rules, I sometimes see Puddleglum staring back at me from the shaving mirror as well! It is easy to be frustrated with people who are naturally cautious and who see obstacles before opportunities. But the Gospel needs people who are careful and cautious (remember the parables about ‘counting the cost’ before going to war or building a tower?) and the Church belittles and neglects the ministry of those who’s forté is ‘jots and tittles’ at her peril.
Some may have the call ringing clearly in their ears, others may have the task shining brightly before their eyes, both of them need those who have their feet (webbed or not) firmly fixed in the mud and slime of this world. Without the odd marshwiggle in our lives, someone who is aware of the pitfalls and traps life can bring, we will frequently find ourselves up the proverbial creek without any means of locomotion! Later on in the story it is the over cautious Puddleglum who saves the day; his steadiness and careful thought being of more use than the gusto of flighty Jill and Eustace who are all emotion and enthusiasm.
To be methodical, to count the cost, to take time to see things from all angles is a gift from God. Those who take time to frame the rules and laws of the Church are also following a call. This vocation needs, in fact deserves, to be valued by the ‘high flyers’ and ‘movers and shakers’ of the gospel. The children are excited (even after a pot of his eel stew!) that Puddleglum is coming on the journey with them. Should not we be more thankful for the lawyers, the administrators and those who simply are care-full and take extra time and care to look at things from all angles in our churches?
Make the door of this house wide enough to receive
all who need human love and friendship,
But narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride, and malice.
Make its threshold smooth enough to be no stumbling-block
to children, nor to straying feet,
But strong enough to turn away the power of evil.
God, make the door of this house a gateway
to your eternal kingdom.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.
Thomas Ken (adapted)
in ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’ © Angela Ashwin – Compiler
Hug your church administrator – if they are the flighty huggable type that is…
Say ‘thank you’ to those who do the bottle washing, cleaning and other routine tasks in your church.
Find the name of some of your local magistrates and lawyers and add them to your prayers.
© Andrew Dotchin 2018