Archives, Pondering, Songs of Assent

Listening to Lucy

Well, there’s just this,” said Edmund, speaking quickly and turning a little red. “When we first discovered Narnia a year ago—or a thousand years ago, whichever it is—it was Lucy who discovered it first and none of us would believe her. I was the worst of the lot. I know. Yet she was right after all. Wouldn’t it be fair to believe her this time?”

Well, perhaps it would have been fair, but such reasoning didn’t win the vote that time. The children tried to get to the Aslan’s How by another way…and wandered around the forest, thwarted once again.

That night we overhear the most intimate dialogue between Aslan and Lucy in all of the Chronicles. But it is not an easy conversation. Aslan tells her to go back and wake up the others and then follow him. And, oh, by the way, no one else besides Lucy will see Aslan at first.

Lucy’s nocturnal encounter with Aslan is a signature scene of feminine receptivity to God. As Thomas Howard writes,

“…Lucy has the gift of recognition. If we read far enough in Lewis we will find a theme…of womanhood being especially receptive to the approaches of mystery, or glory, or the divine.” (Thomas Howard, Narnia and Beyond).

It is certainly not original of Lewis to endue a symbolically feminine personality with heightened receptivity to God. The Gospel accounts would most certainly agree—it was be impossible to conceive of the Incarnation accounts without the bookend of Mary and an angel at one end and Mary Magdalene with a mistaken gardener at the other.

There are a multitude of challenges that accompany the “Lucys” of the world. Not being believed is most certainly one of them. But perhaps the most important, especially when other people are impacted by what a “Lucy” has heard, is whether she has heard aright. Just ask Joseph…or Peter.

A true Lucy must be prepared to let her whole life—not just one (dramatic!) word speak for her. And the community around her has to discern the veracity of her encounter with God by two major indicators. In the first place, does this person have a need for attention or power? Our Lucy is not at all pleased with what she has received from Aslan. She has to wake up exhausted elder siblings and a gruff dwarf and tell them to follow her as she follows Aslan. And she is to go whether or not they come with her. She does not find this charge palatable. In fact, she could go only after her head had dropped into his mane to hide from his face and she found Lion’s strength being poured into her. She obeys in the strength of another. Period.

And, in the second place, what kind of fruit has been born previously by this person’s life? In The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Lucy is not trying to get anyone to do anything. She’s not trying to do anything herself. She just keeps falling into Narnia, until the others happen to be with her when she does. But redeemed Edmund recognizes the fruit of Lucy’s life and sees this challenging command of Aslan’s through the consistency of Lucy’s life as his sister. He is first to follow. And his good reason has nothing to do with the particular “word” she has at this moment. There’s just a fair chance she isn’t mistaken this time, either.

God does give his children unique gifts to carry. I believe that some of them are gendered. Heightened sensitivity to the Lord’s voice is a gift historically bestowed on some of God’s women. And this gift can awaken, live and thrive in community with strong, truth-seeking men around. We are made to give gifts to each other. And when we do, we may even see Aslan. Just ask Edmund.

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