On music, film, literature and faith (why Aslan brought me closer to God)

Dearest,” said Aslan very gently, “you and your brother will never come back to Narnia.”
Oh, Aslan!!” said Edmund and Lucy both together in despairing voices.
You are too old, children,” said Aslan, “and you must begin to come close to your own world now.”
It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”
But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.
Are are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.
I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” – C.S. Lewis

Sigh. This was supposed to be my Easter post. Two weeks later, we can file this in the better late then never category. Blame it on grad school.

As my faith has continued to grow, my eyes have been opened to the many different ways that people come to develop a relationship with God.

I’m thinking back to an Easter service about 5 years ago. My church back home does this huge beautiful Easter celebration and as is tradition they typically do a reenactment of the Crucifixion scene. For many it is very powerful and moving. As for me, I remember being struck by how unaffected I was by that portrayal, how all I wanted to do was look away. It bothered me that such a powerful and critical scene merely fell flat. For a moment I felt ashamed. Was this a reflection of my faith? Was I having doubts? Maybe.

That night my family watched the “Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, the film depiction of C.S. Lewis’ book. If you know the book, you’ll know that it represents many elements of the Easter story.  I can still remember how overcome with emotion I felt when Aslan was sacrificed on the stone table to save the life of Edmund Pevensie, the young boy who had betrayed Aslan, his own family and all of Narnia.

When Aslan saved the traitor.

I knew exactly what it  represented, and for some reason every ounce of that symbolism DID connect with my spirit and helped me feel closer to God. There was no resistance. And I bawled my eyes out.  Why did a movie impact me, but my experience in church did not?

I, like so many others, started off life with a sad impression of religion.  I attended a church steeped in legalism, more focused on enforcing rules than sharing the love of Christ with hurting, broken people (aka, all of us). Thankfully, my parents taught me a much different view of Jesus at home and have continued to do so throughout my life. Otherwise, who knows what would have happened.

Still, I continue to find myself highly resistant to most Christian symbols.  You won’t find me decked out in crosses, I avoid religionese and I tend to be skeptical when first meeting someone who is outwardly “very religious”.  I should clarify that I am not referring to people with strong faith, rather people who throw religiosity harshly in your face. Nor am I against churches. I attend a rather wonderful one myself. But I’m not a fan of those who emphasize religion rather than a relationship with Jesus.

Still, I was sad that very meaningful symbols, such as Jesus’ death on the cross, did not resonate with me as I felt it should.  Or did it?

What I’ve realized is that the other approaches are far more effective in my Christian journey. Books and stories, along with music are all languages that have greatly improved my relationship with God and has helped me understand the struggles of creation better.

A few years ago I was going through a particularly dark year. I was experiencing a great deal of internal struggle and loss. Seemingly every two months a loved would die. I spent much of that period with my head down, blue, just trying to get through the day.

That year it was music that led to a strengthening of my faith. In particular the music of the band called Lifehouse.

“The broken lights on the freeway left me here alone
I may have lost my way now, haven’t forgotten my way home

I’m falling apart, I’m barely breathing
with a broken heart that’s still beating
In the pain, is there healing?
In your name I find meaning
So I’m holdin’ on, 
I’m barely holdin’ on to you.

I’m hangin’ on another day
Just to see what you will throw my way
And I’m hanging on to the words you say
You said that I will be OK” – Lifehouse “Broken” 

(a life changing performance of this song can be found here

I can still feel the combination of grief and peace I experienced driving in my car and hearing this song for the first time as tears poured down my cheeks. I can’t explain why it was so powerful, only it was exactly what I needed, at that very specific moment in time. I’ve always been a music lover, but that year the power of music helped me understand just how caring and loving God was. It helped me understand how well He knows little ole me, and how much more I had to learn about Him.

What I’ve come to understand is that God reveals Himself to us through every aspect of creation, in ways that He knows will work for our own minds. After all, He created us and He created our minds, so who could possibly know us better?

As someone for whom faith is very important, but who is still somewhat resistant to religion, I am so incredibly grateful that I have a Heavenly Father that knows just where to reach me. He doesn’t demand that I find Him in one particular place, rather He continues to pursue me with indescribable love and what I can only describe as supernatural patience. I’ll admit, I can be a resistant free-bird at times, and I’m sure I make the pursuit a bit more challenging. Thankfully, He is the very best at dealing with us challenging, resistant, difficult, frustrated folks called human beings. And just knowing that He is willing to pursue me in whatever ways I need, makes me all the more excited to get to know Him better, to love Him more.

So in closing, I want to thank every author, songwriter, filmmaker, artist or teacher that has ever created a work that has served to grow my faith and the faith of others. I know I am not alone in this. But most of all, I want to thank God for inspiring these folks, even if they don’t know the impact they have had and for using these works of art to draw my closer. I truly couldn’t be more grateful.

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