C. S. Lewis and the Paradise Garden (4)

Where it all points:

Scenic landscape with mountain waterfall (source: pixabay collage)
“For now they saw before them… the high unclimbable cliffs and, pouring down the cliffs, thousands of tons of water every second… the Great Waterfall; and already the thunder of it was in their ears.”

C. S. Lewis once wrote, “If we find in ourselves a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world” (Mere Christianity). Lewis believed that the things and places in this life that stir our longing for paradise ultimately point us to the place where that longing will one day be fulfilled.

(If you missed the previous posts in this series, you can see part one here, part two here, or part three here).

The Narnia Chronicles give us glimpses and whispers of this idea, until we arrive at the closing chapters of the final book – and then the full orchestra breaks out. Throughout the Narnia saga, our beloved heroes have visited wonderful places. They have met with Aslan, the wonderful Christ-figure. They have been challenged, transformed, equipped and led onward. But in The Last Battle (book seven) we see the death of Narnia, and we are let into the secret behind all of the previous sacred moments: they were always pointing to something greater.

A heavenly homecoming

Our heroes have not died with Narnia, but witnessed its final moments after passing through a door and into “Narnian heaven.” As they breathe the air and begin to explore their new surroundings they notice how many of the landmarks they see are familiar. They realize that all along they have been in a “shadow” version of this real world, and one of them declares what they all feel:

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this.”

Our own world’s idea of a paradise garden is a place that offers an aspirational glimpse of heaven and a meeting place for divine encounter. Somehow, in such a garden, we hope to see past the shadowy nature of this world and into the promise of what lies beyond. But like the heroes of Lewis’ Narnia, we long for the day when we will see clearly all that we’ve been longing for our whole lives.

The walled garden, again

Lewis’ description of this entry into Narnian heaven brings us right back to that first visit of Digory to the walled garden in The Magician’s Nephew. But this, of course, is the real thing:

“They saw a smooth green hill. Its sides were as steep as the sides of a pyramid and round the very top of it ran a green wall: but above the wall rose the branches of trees whose leaves looked like silver and their fruit like gold… They found themselves facing great golden gates. And for a moment none of them was bold enough to try if the gates would open… But while they were standing thus a great horn, wonderfully loud and sweet, blew from somewhere inside that walled garden and the gates swung open… ‘Welcome in the Lion’s name. Come further up and further in’… So all of them passed in through the golden gates, into the delicious smell that blew towards them out of that garden and into the cool mixture of sunlight and shadow under the trees, walking on springy turf that was dotted with white flowers… Lucy looked hard at the garden and saw that it was not really a garden at all, but a whole world, with its own rivers and woods and sea and mountains. But they were not strange: she knew them all.”

A steam engine (source: pixabay)
“Have you not guessed? There was a real railway accident. All of you are – as you used to call it in the Shadowlands – dead.”

Beautiful speculations, better promises

There’s a lot that we don’t know about heaven. The imaginative and gifted Lewis has given us some beautiful speculations on the topic. But there are some things that scripture is clear about, some promises that require no speculation. We know that in heaven we will be where our Lord is. We know that every tear will be wiped from our eyes; there will be no more pain, death or grief. And we know that the experience will be wonderful beyond human ability to describe or understand.

Lewis isn’t negligent of these points. When he has painted for us a dazzling picture of heaven’s landscape, he brings us back to the truth that heaven is less about the wonder of the place and more about the wonderous one that we will be with forever.

And so it is that Aslan appears and tells them the best news of all. They can now stay here with him forever: “The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.” In other words, they have come at last to paradise, the place for which they were destined from the very beginning.

“The Chronicles of Narnia Box Set”

C. S. Lewis and the Paradise Garden (4)
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