Monday, August 9, 2010

Remember the Shining Tears and Be Sure

Have you read "The Magician's Nephew" by C.S. Lewis? Chronologically it's the first of the Narnia series, in which Narnia is created by Aslan and Digory Kirk (who is the Professor Kirk of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe") has an adventure in that magical land. Digory's mother is dying at home in London, and Digory has hopes that Aslan will cure her. But first Digory has to go on a long quest to help protect Narnia from an evil that he himself brought into brand-new Narnia through his own foolishness and pride. As Aslan is sternly instructing Digory concerning this quest, Digory knows it's right for him to have to go on the quest, right for Aslan to be fierce and stern, and right that Digory's own desires should be put on hold until he remedies the wrong he has done.  But Digory's heart is still breaking for his mother.  Here's how the scene is described in the book:
"I asked, are you ready?" said the Lion. "Yes," said Digory. He had for a second some wild idea of saying "I'll try to help you if you'll promise to help my Mother," but he realized in time that the Lion was not at all the sort of person one could make bargains with. But when he had said "Yes," he thought of his Mother, and he thought of the great hopes he had had, and how they were all dying away, and a lump came in his throat and tears in his eyes and he blurted out: "But please, please-won't you-can't you give me something that will cure my Mother?"
Up till then he had been looking at the Lion's great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion's eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory's own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.    
"My son, my son,’ said Aslan. ‘I know. Grief is great. Only you and I in this land know that yet. Let us be good to one another."

For a time after Matthias' death I was like Digory staring at the Lion's massive paws and terrible claws.  I understood God's sovereign right to give a baby and then take him away again.  I knew God's power and His inscrutable ways were not mine to question and His purposes not mine to understand.  As I was thrashing around in my agony and burdened down by grief, I was unable to look into His face.  But then one day I did.

One day I cried out from a heart full of pain,

"You took him!  You took him from me!"

And there was anger and accusation there.  In those words I was telling God, "You don't love me.  You just do your holy, mysterious thing without regard to how it affects us puny humans.  Do you know what you did to me when you took my baby?  Do you even care about my tears?"

And in that despair I finally looked up into His face, and I also was surprised more than anything in my whole life.  For I too saw the tears in His eyes and in a moment I knew that there was a sense in which He was sorrier about the death of my little baby than I was myself.  Is it not a wonder!?

He knew.  He understood how great grief is.  He was sorry for me, for my loss, for every tear I shed.  He was grieved for me.  His heart broke for the weight of sadness I carried.

Yes, He has great claws.  Yes, He took Matthias.  It is true that I do not understand His purposes or His ways.  He can give and take life in the blink of an eye, and yet He is saddened by the death of a little baby.  And yet He saw each tear I cried in the dark of the night and they mattered.

Do you remember when Jesus' friend Lazarus died?  Jesus delayed in coming to him when Lazarus was sick, so that Lazarus would die.  Jesus also knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead that very day, in order to display the power of God.  And yet when he reached Lazarus' tomb and saw the great grief of Lazarus' sisters Mary and Martha, he wept.  Why did he weep?  Jesus was in control of Lazarus' death! In a sense Jesus wanted Lazarus to die!  And not only that, but He knew Lazarus would be alive again to be reunited with his sisters in a matter of moments.  But He loved Mary and Martha.  Their tears mattered to Him.  Their great grief broke His heart and He wept for their pain.

That was the day when I looked into His face and saw His tears for me.  I went to Richard, almost afraid to ask, and said,

"Is God sad that Matthias died?"

Such a theologically ambiguous question that my rational, precise husband could have answered with a long and technical answer.  But he didn't.  He said, "Yes, He's sad."

Sometimes I still struggle in my grief.  Sometimes I wonder again if the 36-hour life of a little baby boy matters to the God of the universe.  Sometimes I again cry out, "Why did you take him?"  Sometimes I'm not sure if I am loved and held.  But then, like Digory, I remember the shining tears and I am sure.

He [Digory] was very sad and he wasn’t even sure all the time that he had done the right thing; but whenever he remembered the shining tears in Aslan’s eyes he became sure.

1 comment:

Kathi said...

Thank you, Melissa. Thank you.