Uncle Andrew and me

Bedtime reading with our kids is one of my favourite things to do.  I love the quiet bodies and whisper breathing of our children as they listen, but also I love getting to read great books (like the great labour relations drama of Click, clack, moo, the wonderfully egalitarian Everyone poops, or anything from the brilliant Kate DiCamillo).  The other night Owen and I were finishing up C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew and we came across a passage that rung so true, it felt like a shot to my own heart.

In the story, you’ll remember, Digory and his Uncle Andrew stumble into Narnia where they witness its first days, watching Narnia’s creation as the lion, Aslan, sings it into being.  Lewis is quite amazing here as he describes the glory of this act of creation but for Uncle Andrew it’s all quite a dreadful experience.  Later in the book, Aslan has this to say about Uncle Andrew:

“This world is bursting with life for these few days because the song with which I called it into life still hangs in the air and rumbles in the ground.  It will not be so for long.  But I cannot tell that to this old sinner, and I cannot comfort him either; he has made himself unable to hear my voice.  If I spoke to him, he would only hear only growlings and roarings.  Oh Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!”

It reminded me of this crazy passage in the gospel of John that Lewis echoes.  In John 12,  a voice from heaven speaks to Jesus and says: “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”  But those around Jesus didn’t hear a voice.  The text says “the crowd that was there and heard it said it thundered …”

What if all our defenses are so dismayingly clever that we, more often than not, miss God’s address to us?  What if God is indeed calling out, speaking – all around and all the time – but our well-fortified defenses interpret it as thunder or some other natural phenomenon, explaining those whispers from beyond time as indigestion?  What if this world is filled with the voice of God but our we have neither the sense or the smarts or the courage to hear it?  What if, in this very moment, the Creator God is addressing you in innumerable ways, wishing more than anything that you would not avert your ears one more time but be still, be present and listen?

In her brilliant Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (I can’t wait to read, or at least discuss, this with my kids one day), author Annie Dillard is on a hunt to remain awake to a world “bursting with life,” to the lingering song of the Creator.  She writes:

“We wake, if we ever wake at all, to mystery, rumors of death, violence, beauty … beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.”

As one so intricately webbed into the shared life of creation, it seems a high crime to neglect the minimum standard of living, the practice of doing the least – simply being there, a witness to the song of God in creation.

Oh, for ears dug open and eyes unscaled for this old sinner.

3 thoughts on “Uncle Andrew and me”

  1. Phil, you made me long for the days when I used to read the “Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Hobbit” to my kids. They are grown and moved away so now I read to other people’s kids when we babysit them so that the parents get a break.

    I appreciate this blog and the reminder of those two books. Both are amazing.

    I think I will write my daughters an email and suggest that we read and discuss “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” (or something they would like to read) together, each in our own cities and then discuss it via phone or Skype. Thanks for the inspiration.


    1. Ah, the joys of young kids! Think ahead to grandkids, Keith, and all the books you’ll get to read with them (and enjoy for yourself again).

  2. In the video for the song “Magnificent” by U2, sheets are covering all the buildings and they are being pulled off “revealed” by the wind (Spirit). Most people walking around are going about their day as if nothing extraordinary is going on, and a few are looking up in wonder. Let us have eyes to see and ears to hear.

    Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is a wonderful magnifying glass to creation : )

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