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Today after church we went out with Patrick and his wife Emily (who is very pregnant, due this month) to see "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe." I'm quite pleased to report that it fulfilled every hope that I had developed for it. It was faithful to the book, and nearly every line feels packed with meaning, though in many cases it helps to be in the know, as it were. And, of course, the visuals, from the opening scene over London to the look of Mr. Tumnus's home and the Beavers' house to the battles and Cair Paravel were all super-cool, as you would expect from WETA Workshop.

As we were walking out, Patrick said, "Okay, I'm ready to see it again." I agreed. Now I'm starting to wonder exactly how they'll work out the filming of the next Narnia movies. I mean, come on, they've got to. Edmund and Lucy are in "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader", and all four Pevensies are in "The Last Battle", though obviously they couldn't do that latter one right away. Hmmm...

Seeing this really lifted my spirits. I needed it. Frankly, I've been sick of Christmas since Thanksgiving this year, tired of hearing the same old Christmas songs played in every store (including Northwestern Books), nauseous with modern versions of old carols (few things make my eyes roll harder than a "rockin' out" version of "The Little Drummer Boy"), and just generally bitter and resentful of the shallow, materialistic, insincere ways in which the world recognizes Christmas. I never really got Charlie Brown's beef with such celebrations before; isn't it enough that the world actually recognizes Jesus at one point of the year? It isn't enough for me anymore, I guess. The celebration is embraced to the degree that it sells merchandise; once you start pressing most people about The True Meaning of Christmas, we begin to hear empty greeting-card sentimentality about generosity and being with family...if we're lucky (if we're not, we hear about how Santa Claus lives in your heart and angels get wings when you ring bells and stuff). While there are underlying truths in these statements by themselves (except perhaps the last two, no disrespect meant to Mr. Capra), the whole world still seems to just miss the point, bending over backward to try and pretend that there's no "Christ" in the word "Christmas". Not that it matters; the word "Christmas" is being edited out and replaced with the generic term "holiday". The mere fact that Charles Schultz managed to get blatant quotation of Scripture into an animated special broadcast on national television seems even more amazing forty years later.

But that's only been part of it for me, really. I've been struggling with some depression for the last week or two, and this year I got really angry with God about it and had a couple of arguments with Him (few things are more maddening than a one-sided argument). I picked up a copy of Disappointment With God by Phillip Yancey, and I've read about halfway through it. He basically spent a long weekend holed up in a mountain cabin and read nothing but the Bible all the way through as a snowstorm raged outside. He then presents his findings in reading the Bible not as a series of theological treatises, but as a narrative, the story of God as a parent. It's been very insightful thus far, and somewhat helpful, though I'm still working on it. I know that, in the end, the problem is me, not Him, but acknowledging that fact doesn't make the bitterness and longing go away.

The book's subtitle is "Three Questions No One Asks Aloud". Is God unfair? Is God silent? Is God hidden? During the last two weeks, while I wouldn't go so far as to say I'd lost my faith, I would say that I found myself looking back at many things that had happened in my life, things which I had considered God's doing, and I started to wonder if perhaps I had just attributed those things to Him, when, in fact, they were just coincidences or just a logical turn of events. Perhaps God has never really said anything to me, despite how I would find myself using such terminology to explain certain feelings, thoughts, and impulses that had occurred to me in different circumstances. Was I simply trying to read meaning into things, to make sense of them and draw some sort of purpose? Was it just my imagination? After all, people are constantly saying that "God is doing such-and-such a thing in my life." Is that always true? I think it's safe to say that some people have pinned things on Him that really had nothing to do with Him at all (many televangelists can be painted with this brush). When talking to one particular person about my depression, I got the reply, "You need to leave it at the foot of the Cross." I dismissed it at the time, and I got angry about it later. That sounds poetic and Christiany, but what does that actually mean? Does it mean trying not to think about it? Distracting myself with prayer until enough time passes that it goes away? I didn't find it particularly helpful.

This book deals with what you do when you get frustrated with Him, as I have become (at least, it's supposed to deal with it; I have yet to finish, as I said). One of the good signs is the fact that this is nothing new. The prophets and authors of the Old Testament were familiar with these feelings: look at how many of the Psalms lament God's apparent indifference over the affairs of our world, His inaction at times when we desperately want Him to act. As Yancey points out, there have been periods of hundreds of years in history where God has been utterly silent toward us, and that's just in the ages chronicled (or skipped over) in recorded Scripture!

There have been events in my life which I still cannot ascribe to simple coincidence. Moving here has involved a series of conveniences timed so well that, applying Occam's Razor, it's just easier to accept that God was involved in orchestrating things. Likewise, past events in my life seem just a little too well-orchestrated to bring me closer to God. Keeping a journal helped me to recognize this; while I haven't done so in many years, I do remember those times when I did keep one, and I recall how easy it was to look back over my entries and see God's hand moving in, out, and through my life like a scarlet thread woven through a dull tapestry. Perhaps I need to do that again.

In any case, the book deals with these questions handily, and reveals that these "questions" may not really be the underpinning cause of our disappointments with God. He's been very fair with us, laying out the Commandments we needed to obey in order to be in the right. We broke every one, so it's probably a good thing that He isn't always "fair" - very often, He's lenient, always willing to accept us back. He's spoken openly and bluntly with us, but we've argued with Him and ignored Him. God has made Himself visible, appearing to several people, leading a nation in the form of a pillar of cloud/fire and dwelling in a Temple, but we didn't dare approach Him; we feared and despised Him.

It explores the idea that God is a first-time parent, that He feels emotions as surely as we do, that He is at least as deeply hurt as we are when He experiences betrayal, disobedience, resentment, and hatred from the children He loves. It's one thing to say that Jesus cries when you tell a lie or some such thing, and I think it easily becomes something comical in our minds ("Jesus weeps when you don't eat your green vegetables, or when you watch 'South Park'.") and thus dismissed. It's also easy to be blase and say, "Well, He's a big guy, He can handle criticism." Neither of these caricatures really seem to grasp the truth of the matter.

That's one of the reasons I love Aslan. I've been reading "The Magician's Nephew" at work, and I remember well the part where Digory finally comes to Aslan and asks him to help heal his mother. Aslan's eyes fill with tears, and it strikes Digory that Aslan seems to feel just as badly about his sick mother as he does; maybe even worse. The thought that God may sympathize with my relatively trivial pain (it's not as though I'm crippled or impoverished) doesn't easily occur to me. It's much easier simply to blame Him for it, since He's in control of everything, anyway, and He knew what the outcome was going to be. But He doesn't rob us of our ability to make our own choices, so I don't know if it's as easy as that. When I first began to seriously try to follow Christ, I was surprised to some extent by His alienness - His holiness, our inability to stand in God's full presence, His goodness that far outstrips our own ideas of morality and good behavior, so much so that we cannot hope to live up to it. These days, what surprises me about God is His warmth and His capacity for emotion. Aslan, like Jesus in "The Passion of the Christ", is someone who laughs and jokes. He's someone who, believe it or not, knows exactly what we're going through, because He's been there Himself, and He knows us better than we know ourselves.

Last night, Michael directed me to an article that purported to be a review of the Narnia movie. What it really was was one person's screed against Disney, C.S. Lewis, and God Himself, with special emphasis on the last. Her hatred of God (or, more correctly, her understanding of who God was) was naked, barely concealed by any attempt to be a critic of a particular story or cinematic offering. As upset as the article made me (being in a poor mood and laboring over homework), it reminded me, again, of "The Magician's Nephew." When Jadis, Uncle Andrew, Polly, and Digory first see Aslan, they each have different reactions. The impressions they have speak as much about who Aslan is as it does about who they themselves are. This columnist saw Christ depicted as a roaring lion and was offended, finding him cruel and unlike the safe stuffed animal that she considered Christ to be. I'm frustrated with God right now, but I still wept during several scenes in the Narnia movie, seeing my King behind the CGI lion's eyes and in Liam Neeson's voice. He is not tame, and doesn't always do what I expect Him to do, but I know that He is good.

This entry was posted on Sunday, December 11, 2005 at Sunday, December 11, 2005 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Wow, what a post. I am going to have to reread and ponder a while. I don't think I have had depression yet but I sure have had God gone silent. It is very hard indeed. I always turn it back on myself and wonder what I did etc. I sometimes think about how I am with people I love. I can be very content to just sit with them and not say anything. I am sure they get very disturbed/unnerved by this and begin to wonder what is wrong or more likely they begin to just chatter away to fill the silence. Sometimes I wonder if that is what I do with God. Do I chatter on while he is content to just be with me, silently sharing time and space. Also about hearing him, I wonder always if I really heard him. I know in my heart I did, but in my mind the analysis begins and starts me questioning. I guess that is why only a mustard seed sized faith is needed. It's often about all I have :)

10:21 PM

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