Of Mice & Marshwiggles – Day 36 – Life after Life
Setting the Scene: Arriving at the Stone Table Aslan hands himself over to the Witch and her cronies.
‘The fool!’ she cried. ‘The fool has come. Bind him fast.’ Lucy and Susan held their breaths waiting for Aslan’s roar and his spring upon his enemies. But it never came. Four Hags, grinning and leering, yet also (at first) hanging back and half afraid of what they had to do, had approached him. ‘Bind him, I say!’ repeated the White Witch. The Hags made a dart at him and shrieked with triumph when they found that he made no resistance at all. Then others – evil dwarfs and apes – rushed in to help them, and between them they rolled the huge Lion over on his back and tied all his four paws together, shouting and cheering as if they had done something brave, though, had the Lion chosen, one of those paws could have been the death of them all. But he made no noise, even when the enemies, straining and tugging, pulled the cords so tight that they cut into his flesh. Then they began to drag him towards the Stone Table.
‘Stop!’ said the Witch. ‘Let him first be shaved.’
Another roar of mean laughter went up from her followers as an ogre with a pair of shears came forward and squatted down by Aslan’s head. Snip-snip-snip went the shears and masses of curling gold began to fall to the ground. Then the ogre stood back and the children, watching from their hiding-place, could see the face of Aslan looking all small and different without its mane. The enemies also saw the difference.
‘Why, he’s only a great cat after all!’ cried one.
‘Is that what we were afraid of?’ said another.
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – Chapter 14 – The Triumph of the Witch (© C.S. Lewis)
There is an immense power found in the hands of the willing sacrifice. When someone who has all the power in the world chooses to not exercise it and instead allows themself to be ‘handed over’ true authority is made manifest. Over the last few weeks I have mentioned to several people the theme of William Vanstone’s seminal book ‘The Stature of Waiting’ and how it present to us a model of how to exercise power when we find ourselves as patient – a sort of victimhood. In Holy Week we would do well to be reminded of the way in which the all-powerful Son of God demonstrates his authority by handing over his power and is ‘delivered into the hands of sinful men’.
They thought they had won. The witch and her friends, thought that tying their enemy down and plucking the beard from his face would make an end of him… and for a season that is how it seems the story will end. We know, living in the light of Easter that the shadow of Good Friday is for a season only. We know what Lucy and Susan did not know the true power about which Aslan would later tell them;
‘But what does it all mean?’ asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.
‘It means,’ said Aslan, ‘that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know: Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.
To be a willing victim is an oxymoron – after all does not the definition of a victim imply that there is little choice in the events that happen to you? To be a victim (much like Vanstone’s ‘patients’) is to become someone who instead of acting in their own strength and power is someone who has things done to them. To be a victim is to have every vestige of power stripped from you, to be cruelly bound and gagged, to be shaved and insulted, and to be taken to places where you do not want to go. Ultimately to be a victim is, in some way or another, to die. But willing victims transform power into authority and, refusing to be complicit in the power struggles of this world, they bring us to a place where ‘death itself starts working backwards’.
Many of us, like the apostle Peter at the end of John’s Gospel, will find ourselves in places where we do not want to go. We can kick against this. We can rant and rave against the injustices being perpetrated against us and transform the world by our own power, and in many cases this is what we must do. But occasionally, when our own prestige and status is at risk, perhaps like Aslan, like our Lord Jesus Christ, we can hand over our power, become willing victims and watch as death itself starts working backward.
Christ our victim,
Whose beauty was disfigured
and whose body was torn upon the cross;
open wide your arms
to embrace our tortured world,
that we may not turn away our eyes,
but abandon ourselves to your mercy.
in ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’ © Angela Ashwin – Compiler
Choose to lose a ‘battle’.
It may be a long standing family feud, a point of ‘principle’ which is not as earth-moving as we would cherish it to be, or a simple moment of letting someone else have their way.
However, for this to be a time when ‘death works backwards’ it will need to be done with grace, humility and perhaps even a smile.
© Andrew Dotchin 2018