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Why Susan (No Longer) Scares Me

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July 8, 2013 – I grew up reading C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.  I mean, I really grew up reading them.  They were the first chapter books I ever read as a boy and I never stopped.  I can’t count the number of times I read through the series of seven books.  Typically, a few weeks after finishing the final book, The Last Battle, I would meander to my book shelf, pull out the first book, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and start all over again.
Lewis introduces several sets of heroes and heroines throughout the series but my favorite group has always been the Pevensies: Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy.  They are introduced in the first book of the Chronicles and they all appear together again in the second book, Prince Caspian, as well.  Together these brothers and sisters experience the wonder of the Narnian world and as readers we experience it through their eyes.  The characters and experiences of each child seem carefully calculated to resonate with the most important chords of young life: Lucy’s delighted and unquestioning wonder; Edmund’s treachery and redemption; Susan’s sensitive dignity; Peter’s growing strength and leadership.  Each of these children becomes the voice of a different stage of life; more than that, each becomes an empathetic friend.
It is all the more shocking then, when, in Lewis’s final installment of the Narnia series, The Last Battle, we learn that Susan has abandoned her loyalty to Narnia.  When the last king of Narnia encounters the famous Pevensie siblings sans Susan, he says,
“Sir . . . . If I have read the chronicles aright, there should be another.  Has not your Majesty two sisters?  Where is Queen Susan?”
“My sister Susan,” answered Peter shortly and gravely, “is no longer a friend of Narnia.”
“Yes,” said Eustace, “and whenever you’ve tried to get her to come and talk about Narnia or do anything about Narnia, she says, ‘What wonderful memories you have!  Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.’” (Lewis, C.S. (1988) The Last Battle, New York: MacMillan, 127)
Susan Pevensie, though she experienced all the same wonders as her brothers and sister, eventually disavowed her knowledge and willingly forgot all of her adventures in Narnia.  As a result, she does not join her siblings and friends in their final joy there.
It is not hard to see the parable that Susan becomes for believers.  There is no guarantee, from a merely human perspective, that our past experiences and delights in the faith will translate into perseverance to the end.  It is always possible to fall away.  This is why the author to the Hebrews fills his letter with so many dire warnings:
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  (Hebrews 3:12)
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.  (Hebrews 4:1)
For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,  if they then fall away. . . . (Hebrews 6:4–6)
This last quotation seems a fit summary of the final attitude of Susan Pevensie to the land of Narnia.  And this scares me.
This scares me because I know that the impulses and temptations and distractions that lead someone like Susan to disavow all that she had previously experienced in Narnia exist within my own soul as well.  I am not safe from falling away from the faith.  My past experiences notwithstanding, it will always be possible for me to walk away, to deny, to forget.  It may be that at the end someone will say of me, “He is no longer a friend of Narnia.”  This is why Susan, and all that she symbolizes, scares me.
But I have a method for dealing with this fear.  It has been taught to me by my two daughters, aged two and a half and five.  My girls had recourse to this method for dealing with fear last night when a string of thunderstorms swept through our area in the wee hours.  Their method of handling their fear in the face of those storms was to cry out loudly for their father.  And their method worked.  I found myself stumbling down the hallway, rubbing sleep from my eyes, my annoyance at being woken fading swiftly into a simple desire to calm my children’s fear.  After several reassurances and some time alone with me, their fear subsided and they went back to sleep.  I know that my Father will respond to my fearful cries with infinitely greater wisdom, promptness and comfort than I can muster for my children.  So I take a lesson from them, and when I begin to consider the horror of not persevering in the faith, the unspeakable but real possibility of falling away, Susan-like, I cry out for my Father’s comfort and find it in the pages of Scripture:
. . . [W]hen God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.  We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf. . . . (Hebrews 6:17–20)
Susan no longer scares me.

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