Attuning to God's Presence and Calling
"Now Faith," wrote C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, "is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods." 1In the second published Narnia book, Prince Caspian, Lewis further explored questions of faith, as well as God's calling, through two recurring characters: Aslan the lion and Lucy Pevensie.
Readers of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe will no doubt recall both characters. In the book Lucy encounters Aslan for the first time, while in Prince Caspian she returns to Narnia, but Aslan, for a time, eludes her. A Christ-figure, Aslan embodies all that is just, holy and good. Like Christ, his divine presence is not only a comfort, but also radiates majesty, power and truth.
In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lucy is the first to enter Narnia, but when she returns to her world her siblings do not believe her. In Prince Caspian she finds herself in a similar situation when it comes to sensing Aslan's presence: "'Look! Look! Look!' cried Lucy … 'The Lion … Aslan himself. Didn't you see?' Her face had changed completely and her eyes shone." <>2But no one else sees Aslan at this time. Peter, her oldest brother, begins, "Do you really mean—?" Susan, Lucy's older sister, immediately suggests that Lucy only "thinks" she has seen Aslan, casting doubt on Lucy's assertion./p>
Lucy is firm in her claim that she has seen Aslan, even when her traveling companions have not. She also believes that her seeing Aslan is a sign that they are going in the wrong direction. After some discussion (and argument), the group votes and decides not to act on Lucy's insights. Following a series of mishaps, the group then decides to turn around and go in the direction Lucy first suggested. Lucy later awakens from a deep sleep, "with the feeling that the voice she liked best in the world had been calling her name." 3Lucy heeds the call, gets up, and wanders through the woods alone. She is rewarded by meeting Aslan. "Welcome, child," says the lion. Lucy perceives him as being bigger than he used to be: "That is because you are older … every year you grow, you will find me bigger." 4
Becoming Attuned to God's Calling
Of all the human characters in the Chronicles of Narnia, Lucy is most attuned to Aslan's voice and calling. She hears him and obeys. Her faith opens her to the wonders of God and His calling. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." 5The Bible, however, does not call us to blind faith, but reasonable faith that understands Christianity as being, in the words of the Apostle Paul, "true and reasonable" (Acts 26:25). As C.S. Lewis wrote, God "wants a child's heart, but a grown-up's head." 6
But how can we become better attuned to God's presence and calling in our lives? Following are several spiritual disciplines we can practice in order to better discern God's calling:
- Cultivate a regular and consistent prayer life
- Be open daily to seeking God's influence in our lives
- Read the Bible regularly and thoughtfully
- Seek and heed the wise counsel of others
- Develop a genuine desire to be in God's will
- Experience periods of fasting, not just from food, but from many things
- Repent of any possible hindrances in our life that may distance us from God
- Practice biblically-based contemplation and silence, focusing on God and His truths
- Unclutter our spiritual lives so God has room to move
Uncluttering Our Spiritual Lives
While space does not permit a thorough discussion of each of these points, they are all important to keep in mind, particularly the last point. We wonder sometimes why it is difficult for us to sense God's will and calling in our lives, when in fact our lives are frenetic disaster zones, filled with entertainment, distractions, noise, and non-stop busyness.
In the Gospel of Matthew we read that Jesus "went up on a mountainside by himself to pray" and "when evening came, he was there alone …" (14:23). We should follow his example and take breaks of solitude. It is too easy to be distracted by diversion. The neglect of the spiritual life is a neglect of God. Far from heeding the biblical instructions to "never be lacking in zeal" and keep our "spiritual fervor, serving the Lord" (Romans 12:11), we find it easier to lose ourselves in diversion.
A media-saturated culture promotes the craving for fast-paced amusement, emphasizing sounds and images, rather than careful reflection. Learning to become quiet is important when it comes to hearing God's call. We need space for holy reflection.
Biblically, we are told by God via the psalmist to "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). Numerous times, particularly in several verses in Psalm 119, Christians are instructed to meditate on God, including contemplating His "precepts" (verses 15, 78), "ways" (15), "decrees" (23, 48), "wonders" (27), "law" (97), "statutes" (99) and "promises" (148). To be still and contemplate in a biblical sense involves an effort, but it is an effort God has called us to make, as excessive diversion desensitizes the soul to God's calling. We must give God room to grow in our lives. He stands at the door to our heart and knocks (Revelation 3:20). We must let Him in. But how can we hear His knock if our own actions drown out His call?
Being Open to God's Calling
In Prince Caspian, Lucy is open to Aslan's call. She hears him and responds. Her faith and commitment open her to sensing Aslan's presence, despite her circumstances. But she is not perfect, at one point even expressing a sort of superiority and pride about seeing Aslan when others have not. This we must avoid at all costs, lest it lead to pride—what Lewis called "the great sin" and "a spiritual cancer." 7
In one sense the Christian life is "easy" in that Christ's "yoke is easy" and his "burden is light," allowing us to find "rest for" our "souls" (Matthew 11:29-30). But in another sense, to truly follow Christ and God's perfect will for us, we must "deny" ourselves, take up our cross, and follow (Matthew 16:24), bringing to mind a passage C.S. Lewis often quoted or alluded to: "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it" (Matthew 16:25).
God's calling requires a dedicated effort on our part. But true fulfillment in His "good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:2) is within our reach, if only, like Lucy, we are open to hearing the call, acting on it and faithfully obeying. In order to do so, our spiritual lives must first be uncluttered.
Robert Velarde is author of The Heart of Narnia (NavPress) and Conversations with C.S. Lewis (InterVarsity). He studied philosophy of religion at Denver Seminary and is pursuing graduate studies in philosophy at Southern Evangelical Seminary.
Copyright © 2008 Robert Velarde. Used with permission. All rights reserved.