I was recently reading a story about a young girl named Jill, who is magically transported from our world into a mysterious forest with a stream flowing through it. When she sees the stream, it causes her to become extremely thirsty, but she does not bend down to drink because she realizes there is a large lion right by the stream. Her fear causes her to be unable to run away, but the longer she is there, the more her thirst grows; to the point that the thought of water becomes all consuming. It is at that moment that Jill realizes the lion is speaking to her.
“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.
“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.
“Then drink,” said the Lion.
“May I—could I—would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.
The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience….
“Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.
“I make no promise,” said the Lion….
“Do you eat girls?” she said.
“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.
“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
“There is no other stream,” said the Lion….
It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping up water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted. You didn’t need to drink much of it, for it quenched your thirst at once.”
Engaging The Story
Many of you may have recognized that this comes from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. It has been a number of years since I read this particular story, and in many ways, I had forgotten the details of this encounter. As I read it though, I was struck by the layers of what Lewis was communicating. For those unfamiliar with the story, the lion, or Aslan, is for all intents and purposes the Christ figure in Narnia. I purposely didn’t give this context at the beginning because I think it is important to experience this moment from Jill’s perspective and not to go into it with a preconceived understanding of what is taking place. When a story or a character becomes too familiar to us, we can miss what the author is attempting to communicate.
Read it again, but this time imagine that you are in Jill’s position and are isolated in an unfamiliar forest. Your thirst is overwhelming, and the only thing stopping you from quenching it is a lion by the stream. Now, I say the ‘only thing’, but the point is that is no small obstacle. From Jill’s perspective, a lion is a dangerous animal that could easily kill her, and frankly her fears are not eased at all by the lion’s response when she asks if he has eaten girls. Then, when the lion informs her there is no other stream to drink from she must realize she has no choice; she will either die from thirst, or she must submit her trust in the unknown character of the lion and drink. Now, lets examine some of the layers I see Lewis illustrating for us.
1: Desperate Need For Water
Feeling extremely thirsty, Jill seeks a place where she can quench her thirst. The longer she is near the stream, the more her thirst increases, to the point she knows that she will die without water. She soon comes to understand that the stream by the lion is her only source for life and just how desperate the situation is. In a similar way, the Bible regularly tells us that by nature we are dead in our sins (Colossians 2) and that Jesus offers the only water that will satisfy and give us life (John 4). Apart from Christ we will remain dead in sin, which reveals why we so desperately need what He offers.
2: Water Freely Offered
The lion clearly recognizes Jill’s thirst, and he freely offers her the opportunity to drink from the stream. Jesus also recognizes our need, and freely offers Himself to all those who thirst, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38). This picture of life giving water that only comes from God is a compelling visual we find woven throughout Scripture. In fact, we see a similar statement in the very last chapter in our Bibles when Jesus once again says, “And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” (Revelation 22). But, just because life is freely offered doesn’t mean people will come.
3: Wanting Benefits Without Faith
Jill knows she needs the water, but understandably the lion is making her very nervous. When she asks the lion to simply go away so she can drink, she realizes the flaw in her request. Just as Jill feels uncomfortable in the presence of the lion, we as sinful humans rightly feel uncomfortable in the presence of God. The holy righteousness of God starkly reveals our own unrighteousness. There is a reason why throughout the Bible people respond by falling on their faces when they catch a glimpse of God being revealed in glory, and responding with statements like Isaiah did, “Woe to me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6).
There are many who like the idea of the free offer of living water to all that thirst; the only problem is that we need to humbly come to Christ in faith in order to receive this gift. If we were honest, most would like to simply drink from the stream in order to enjoy the benefits and have God simply go away. Like the lion in the story, God is dangerous; but God is also loving and good. This should remind of that we need to have a balanced view of all of God’s attributes. And as the only holy and true God, He is also the only one who can provide what we need.
4: Only One Stream
When the Lion does not minimize Jill’s fears but likely increases them, she logically determines she just needs to find another stream. But, the Lion informs her that there is in fact no other stream; and we are told it never occurs to her to disbelieve the Lion, because something in his face revealed the truth of his statement. Scripture is also clear that faith in Jesus is the only way we as sinful people can be reconciled to a holy God. There is no other stream that we may drink from that will give us life because “there is salvation in no one else”. (Acts 4:12) Many will search in vain for another stream to provide life, but there is only one place to go where our spiritual thirst can be fully quenched.
5: Thirst is Fully Quenched
Once Jill submits to trusting the Lion in order to drink of the stream, she does so and realizes the uniqueness of the water; because it is not only the most refreshing water she had ever tasted, but she only needs to drink some of it in order to feel entirely refreshed. When we repent of our sin and place our faith in Jesus for salvation, we are adopted as the children of God and made into a new creation. If a person has genuine faith, they cannot be more justified than they are at the moment they are saved; nor can they be any less justified. The living water that can only be found in Christ to refresh and renew us has the power to give life to the uttermost. We do not need to keep dipping into the proverbial stream in order to be saved all over again. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. It is important for us to dwell on this and to live in light of our new nature, “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5).
Reawakening The Joy Of Truth
One of the reasons I love to read fiction is the way it causes me to reexamine the way I view things I already know to be true. Sometimes all it takes is changing the context in order to view something with fresh eyes. There are many times I find that I can become calloused to even biblical truths that have perhaps become too familiar. But, when I encounter those truths again through a fictional story, often it reawakens my love and understanding for the One who offers life.
For those of us who are followers of Christ, the story of Jill’s encounter with the lion should stir something in us and grow our affections for our Savior and what He has done for us; while also causing us to desire a more robust understanding of His character. As I read this story I begin to ask myself, what part of God’s character do I neglect? Does my perspective of God match what the Bible teaches about His love, His justice, His holiness, and His sovereignty?
For those who are still standing next to the proverbial stream dying of thirst, this story should cause you to ask another question. Will you drink of the living water that Jesus offers through repentance of sin and faith in Him alone for salvation? Or will you continue to wander aimlessly looking for another stream that does not exist?
Excerpt taken from The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis