Of Mice & Marshwiggles – Day 34 – Learning
Setting the Scene: In their quest to find the lost lords of Narnia the Dawn Treader comes close to the shore of the Island where dreams come true.
‘Mercy!’ cried the voice. ‘Mercy! Even if you are only one more dream, have mercy. Take me on board. Take me, even if you strike me dead. But in the name of all mercies do not fade away and leave me in this horrible land’…
…The moment his feet reached the deck he said:
‘Fly! Fly! About with your ship and fly! Row, row, row for your lives away from this accursed shore.’
‘Compose yourself,’ said Reepicheep, ‘and tell us what the danger is. We are not used to flying.’
‘Nevertheless you will fly from here,’ he gasped. ‘This is the Island where Dreams come true.’
‘That’s the island I’ve been looking for this long time,’ said one of the sailors. ‘I reckoned I’d find I was married to Nancy if we landed here.’
‘And I’d find Tom alive again,’ said another.
‘Fools!’ said the man, stamping his foot with rage. ‘That is the sort of talk that brought me here, and I’d better have been drowned or never born. Do you hear what I say? This is where dreams -dreams, do you understand, come to life, come real. Not daydreams: dreams.’ …
…Caspian, trying not to look at anything (especially not to keep looking behind him), went aft to Drinian.
‘Drinian,’ he said in a very low voice. ‘How long did we take rowing in? I mean rowing to where we picked up the stranger.’
‘Five minutes, perhaps,’ whispered Drinian. ‘Why?’
‘Because we’ve been more than that already trying to get out.’
Drinian’s hand shook on the tiller and a line of cold sweat ran down his face. The same idea was occurring to everyone on board. ‘We shall never get out, never get’ out,’ moaned the rowers. ‘He’s steering us wrong. We’re going round and round in circles. We shall never get out.’ The stranger, who had been lying in a huddled heap on the deck, sat up and burst out into a horrible screaming laugh.
‘Never get out!’ he yelled. ‘That’s it. Of course. We shall never get out. What a fool I was to have thought they would let me go as easily as that. No, no, we shall never get out.’
Lucy leant her head on the edge of the fighting top and whispered, ‘Aslan, Aslan, if ever you loved us at all, send us help now.’ The darkness did not grow any less, but she began to feel a little – a very, very little – better. ‘After all, nothing has really happened to us yet,’ she thought.
‘Look!’ cried Rynelf’s voice hoarsely from the bows. There was a tiny speck of light ahead, and while they watched a broad beam of light fell from it upon the ship. It did not alter the surrounding darkness, but the whole ship was lit up as if by searchlight. Caspian blinked, stared round, saw the faces of his companions all with wild, fixed expressions. Everyone was staring in the same direction: behind everyone lay his black, sharply-edged shadow.
Lucy looked along the beam and presently saw something in it. At first it looked like a cross, then it looked like an aeroplane, then it looked like a kite, and at last with a whirring of wings it was right overhead and was an albatross. It circled three times round the mast and then perched for an instant on the crest of the gilded dragon at the prow. It called out in a strong sweet voice what seemed to be words though no one understood them. After that it spread its wings, rose, and began to fly slowly ahead, bearing a little to starboard. Drinian steered after it not doubting that it offered good guidance. But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, ‘Courage, dear heart,’ and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.
In a few moments the darkness turned into a greyness ahead, and then, almost before they dared to begin hoping, they had shot out into the sunlight and were in the warm, blue world again. And all at once everybody realized that there was nothing to be afraid of and never had been. They blinked their eyes and looked about them. The brightness of the ship herself astonished them: they had half expected to find that the darkness would cling to the white and the green and the gold in the form of some grime or scum. And then first one, and then another, began laughing.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – Chapter 12 – The Dark Island (© C.S. Lewis)
As Holy Week approaches we enter a season of darkness. This was a season not so much of dreams coming true for Jesus and his followers, but instead a season of broken dreams and shattered visions. The words of the disciples to the stranger on the Road to Emmaus sum it up ‘We had hoped that he was the one…’ (Luke 24.21).
I do not know what is worse, dreams never being fulfilled or our every imagining coming to life? What I do know is that both of them are places of darkness and, without a guide it will appear as if we are spending our life rowing around in circles and becoming ever more desperate.
In the dark the greatest lesson we have to learn is that we cannot, in fact it is perhaps even dangerous, to try and find our own way. This is why Teresa of Avila wonderfully names the darkness as the only safe place. For it is in the dark when we have no resources of our own and, more than ever, need with Lucy to cry out…
‘Aslan, Aslan, if ever you loved us at all, send us help now.’
The only way out of the fear which darkness brings is to follow the lead of the One who Loves us Best. This is the One who has conquered the darkness. Who is swift of wing and surefooted enough to give us something by which to steer. Mind you, when we learn to call on him the darkness does not always lift at once but, like Lucy, we will learn to feel a little better, perhaps less afraid, and able to look up instead of down. And as we do, in the middle of the darkness, we will hear his words of comfort and feel a ‘delicious smell’ breathe into us. What an incredible picture to lead us through the dark parts of Passiontide!
This Holy Week don’t be frightened of the dark places – instead call on God’s name and be ready to breathe in his comfort.
Spirit of comfort and longing,
enfold my fear,
unclothe me of my pride,
unweave my thoughts,
uncomplicate my heart,
and give me surrender:
that I may tell my wounds,
lay down my work, and greet the dark.
in ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’ © Angela Ashwin – Compiler
There is much else ‘to do’ in Holy Week so there will be only one task after each reflection.
In the days ahead, after careful prayer, take one area of personal darkness and allow God to lead you through it.
© Andrew Dotchin 2018