Of Mice & Marshwiggles – Day 31 – Learning
Setting the Scene: Towards the end of the Silver Chair Jill, Eustace, Puddleglum and the Prince they came to rescue fall under the enchantment of ‘The Lady of the Green Kirtle’. In fact a witch, she intends to rule Narnia by tricking the Prince into leading an underground army for her. However she had not counted on the stubbornness of the average marshwiggle.
‘There never was any world but mine,’ said the Witch.
‘There never was any world but yours,’ said they.
Puddleglum was still fighting hard. ‘I don’t know rightly what you all mean by a world,’ he said, talking like a man who hasn’t enough air. ‘But you can play that fiddle till your fingers drop off, and still you won’t make me forget Narnia; and the whole Overworld too. We’ll never see it again, I shouldn’t wonder. You may have blotted it out and turned it dark like this, for all I know. Nothing more likely. But I know I was there once. I’ve seen the sky full of stars. I’ve seen the sun coming up out of the sea of a morning and sinking behind the mountains at night. And I’ve seen him up in the midday sky when I couldn’t look at him for brightness.’
Puddleglum’s words had a very rousing effect. The other three all breathed again and looked at one another like people newly awaked.
‘Why, there it is!’ cried the Prince. ‘Of course! The blessing of Aslan upon this honest Marsh-wiggle. We have all been dreaming, these last few minutes. How could we have forgotten it? Of course we’ve all seen the sun.’
The Silver Chair – Chapter 12 – The Queen of Underland (© C.S. Lewis)
When life is full of darkness it is often quite easy to give into the gloom and full under the spell of Giant Despair (to borrow a character from John Bunyan) and, those who have spent time in his castle, know all too well it is a challenging place from which to escape. So too is the Underland of Narnia; a place full of enchantment and darkness it’s chief power is that there seems not only to be no way out but all the light that we have once known has vanished completely from our memory. Or almost…
Puddleglum, the unlikely hero of The Silver Chair, reminds me of the faithfulness shown by Daniel’s three companions as they were thrown into the fiery furnace during the exile in Babylon. Faced with certain death if they do not worship Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image they have this to say.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defence to you in this matter.17If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us.*18But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.’
Despite all that faces Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – and the possibility of being burnt alive is very real to them – they refuse to give in to the foreign God. They declare that God is able to rescue them and, wonderfully, even if God is not able to deliver them they will still not bow down and worship Nebuchadnezzar’s idol. So ‘sucks to you’ king of Babylon, ‘sucks to you’ Lady of the Green Kirtle, and ‘sucks to you’ Giant Despair.
It takes special friends, such as Puddleglum, to call us back to the firm foundations of our faith. These are the people who, if we are not careful, we can easily dismiss as being simple and unsophisticated. We do this at our peril. Those who we might look down upon as having a simple faith often have the clearest vision and the most tenacious belief. Their greatest gift to us and the rest of the church is that, in their simple uncomplicated devotion, they seem to be able to do nothing other than turn their faces to the light of the Son.
Each of us needs to learn the simple truth that the Sun shines day and night all year around – and remember that when we are in the darkness of despair it is not because the sunlight has been extinguished but that our world has spun on its axis and turned away from the Sun or a cloud has just covered her face for a short while. The light can never fade, no matter what witch’s spell or Giant Despair can say to us.
Deliver us from the long drought of the mind;
Let leaves from the deciduous cross fall on us
Washing us clean,
Turning our autumn to gold
by the affluence of their fountain.
in ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’ © Angela Ashwin – Compiler
On the next sunny day spend some time in the sunshine and allow it to wash away anything about which you are anxious or desperate.
In your faith community discover some way of showing your appreciation of those whose faith may not seem to be as ‘mature’ as your own but is nonetheless a source of life and light.
Pray for someone you know who has a mental health challenge and seems locked in despair.
© Andrew Dotchin 2018