Beware of temptations along your spiritual journey
It’s a new year, a new decade, and a wonderful time to begin a new journey.
Journeys are a major focus of this column. I love to explore the different journeys of our lives and how truths about these journeys can be found in the films we watch, the books we read, and the music we hear.
These are not, however, journeys that burn gasoline, earn frequent flyer miles, or require stamps in a passport. These are journeys of the spirit – voyages that tell us so much about our selves. These personal journeys can often be very long and somewhat difficult, but they can also be very rewarding.
There are many journeys in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
Separated from their family because of the threat of WWII in London, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie have to live with their aunt, uncle, and annoying cousin Eustace.
Edmund longs to be a High King of Narnia again instead of a young boy no one takes seriously. Lucy is on the threshold of becoming a young lady, complete with all the dreams and insecurities of that age. Eustace is a piece of work. He trusts no one, avoids real responsibility, and firmly believes his cousins’ talk about the land of Narnia is a bunch of rubbish.
He quickly changes his mind when a painting starts to leak water and then floods his bedroom to transport the three to Narnia’s Eastern Ocean. There they are taken aboard to reunite with their royal friend King Caspian, the warrior mouse Reepicheep, and learn of the dangerous voyage of the Dawn Treader.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Under King Caspian’s rule, Narnia has become a more peaceful land. However, a mysterious evil still exists on Dark Island many leagues away. Long ago, the seven lords of Narnia each sailed east to battle the evil, but never returned. King Caspian’s quest is to discover the whereabouts of the seven lords and their swords.
Rarely have Narnians sailed east, for the waters around the mysterious islands are treacherous. During their journey, the crew must fight their own hungers and thirst, magical creatures, slave traders, and sinister enemies.
However, not all of the lands in the east are evil. Legend tells of a great land near the edge of the world – Aslan’s land. Reepicheep heard tales of this land when he was just a mouseling. “Do you really believe that Aslan’s land lies far to the east?” Lucy asks Reepicheep. “We have nothing, if not belief,” he tells her. The crew lands on the Island of the Duffers and meets a wizard who tells them more about the evil before them. “This evil seeks to corrupt all goodness and steal the light from this world,” he says.
To break the spell and rid the land of this evil, they must lay all seven swords from the lords of Narnia on Aslan’s table. However, as they get closer to fulfilling their task, they will surely be tested and tempted. “Don’t fall to temptation,” the wizard warns. “To defeat the evil out there, you must first defeat the evil inside yourself.”
Personal temptations were well known to C. S. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia. He once wrote in a letter: “I am suffering incessant temptations to uncharitable thoughts at present, one of those black moods in which nearly all one’s friends seem to be selfish or even false.”
A black mood falls over Peter when they find a river that changes everything into gold. Peter succumbs to the lust for gold and the idea of becoming the most powerful ruler in Narnia. He then sees Caspian as a rival for that power and they start to duel. Fortunately, Lucy makes them realize they must resist this evil temptation.
Lucy herself knows temptation. While on the island, Lucy steals a beauty spell from the wizard’s magic book. Doubting her own beauty, Lucy longs to be as beautiful as her sister Susan. She gives into the temptation and recites the spell. In her mirror, she sees herself transformed into Susan, which means Lucy no longer exists.
But there are consequences to giving into temptation. In a vision created by Aslan, she realizes that her brothers no longer know anything about Narnia. Lucy was the first one to enter Narnia and tell her siblings about the magical land. But since she no longer exists, their knowledge of Narnia disappears as well. Frightened by the result, Lucy learns to be content with her own self.
When they finish their voyage, Aslan tells Lucy and Peter that they must return to their world, for they have grown too old for Narnia. “Will we ever see you again?” asks Lucy. “I am known by another name in your world,” he gently tells her.” “You must learn to see me there as well.”
The feeling remains that God is on the journey too. – St. Teresa of Avila
As we take our personal journeys and battle against temptations, we would do well to see God in our world and call upon him for help.
Christopher Fenoglio journeys to Narnia and Middle-earth from his home near Nashville.