"They say Aslan is on the move—perhaps has already landed." (Mr. Beaver, to the children, in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S.Lewis)
"[T]he story holds to a single course. It looks across the open frontier to the Country whose forces move unseen among us; for they are the things that matter most, 'and the life of the spirit has no borders.'" (Amy Carmichael, in Gold Cord: The Story of a Fellowship)
"Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end." (Isaiah 9:7a)
Laura Hillenbrand's recent novel about Louis Zamperini, Unbroken, is, without saying it in so many words, a story of God's providence. Time after time, from the age of two on through his life, Zamperini has brushes with death, from his climb out of a second floor window as a toddler and flight down the street to his near drowning when his WWII B-24 Liberator lost engine power and went down in the Pacific Ocean. Entangled in a web of fuselage wiring, he was pulled by the sinking plane toward the sea floor, unable to free himself, momentarily blacking out, only to inexplicably find himself conscious, disentangled, and floating upward toward the light of the ocean surface, saved. It becomes a powerful metaphor for spiritual liberation and a reality for the latter converted Zamperini.
I need reminders like this, stories about the ongoing power of God to save and heal and liberate, to do what seems impossible, to frustrate the devolution and entropy of a world gone wrong by melting a chill winter of sin that at time seems to reign, if only by permission. Bad news can be overwhelming. Friends divorcing. Children rebelling. Governments snuffing out freedom. The White Witch of endless winter seems to ride on over the earth, seems to have won at times.
But then I read of Zamperini. Or I remember the promise in the whispered words of Mr. Beaver: "They say Aslan is on the move." Or, even better, an old prophet reminds me that "of the increase of his government there shall be no end," and my mind is drawn back to a Christmas sermon some 23 years ago when my pastor delivered this message of "good government growth," one that has remained with me when so many other sermons have been lost in a fog. And it gives me hope that He is on the move, that the promise of Jesus, the one whose very name means "God saves," is real. Disentangled from Zamperini's cords of death, we will rise to the surface, liberated, saved, whole if battered.
And yet lostness is all around. Yesterday, perusing the aisles of a popular independent bookstore, the shelves bulged with empty spirituality --- the occult, zen, new age, mysticism, radical feminism --- and novels of brokenness, vanity, and eroticism. I had to leave, sickened. I could more easily bear the stench of the slums of Nairobi or Kampala than the smell of dying in that place.
Amy Carmichael, turn of the century missionary to South India, well knew that smell of death. And yet, better than me, she could go there to the temples where young girls were enslaved and forced into prostitution, could endure miserable conditions and discouraging lack of progress and what seemed like hopeless situations with confidence that God would work, that He was still active in the world, that something unseen was being done even while on surface there seemed to be no hope, no encouragement, even from other missionaries. She kept in mind that other Country, the Life underneath the world, the One upholding and sustaining it. He is the same one who said to a complaining Habakkuk, "For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end --- it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay" (Hab. 2:3).
We walk in fields of gold. Unseen forces work among us. Inch by inch He claims the earth, His government ever increasing. The White Witch of winter may do her work seemingly unhindered, and yet defeat is certain, her end in sight. He is on the move.
Taking a walk today over a wood, with a backdrop of mountains, I looked up more than once and paused. I thought of Amy Carmichael looking at the mountains west of the village of Dohnavur, and me looking at these mountains, and time dropped away, became irrelevant. She might as well have been standing next to me, saying "These mountains were a wonderful help. They were so unchangeably strong and tranquil and serene that just to look at them strengthened us. Often, caught and tangled in the throng of things, we used to stop and let their calmness enter into us, and we prayed that we might serve with 'a quiet mind.'" Hearing her say that, knowing Zamperini's story, hearing my pastor across time speak of the promise of His government, that He is on the move, I kept walking. I keep walking. He has come. He is coming.