“Child” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.” These words appear in one of my absolute favorite fantasy novels, The Horse and His Boy, by C.S. Lewis. I’m currently re-reading through the Chronicles of Narnia series and was particularly struck this past week as I read these words spoken by Aslan to the protagonist of the novel, Shasta.
The entire novel is centered around the quest of Shasta and the talking horse, Bree, who escape from a life of captivity and restlessness in Calormene to ride north, to Narnia. Bree, the talking horse, had been taken from Narnia as a foal and longs for the freedom of his native land, as well as the dignity of living away from the mute beasts of Calormene. Shasta is a young boy who was raised in Calormene under the care (or lack thereof) of the fisherman, Arsheesh. The only story that Shasta had ever known was the one that had held him captive by Arsheesh, one of slavery, rejection, and unworthiness. By the end of the novel, it is discovered that Shasta’s real name is Cor and that he is truly a prince of Archenland who had been stolen as a baby and whose purpose was to deliver his people, his true people, in their time of need.
The words of Aslan about story are spoken to Shasta when he inquires into another’s story, that of his traveling friend, Aravis. The words not only warn Shasta that a person’s story is exactly that, personal and one’s own, but also serve as a counter message, a promise, to Shasta, the boy who had never known his true story but only that of others. Aslan gives Shasta the promise of new life and the freedom of his own story, his own identity apart from slavery, rejection, and unworthiness. Sound familiar? It certainly does to me.
This narrative could be claimed by anyone, as it is one that is pervasive throughout history. People become displaced within their own stories by the voices of society, culture, other people, etc. Identities and purpose are stolen or hidden, passion replaced by boredom, freedom and imagination subdued and imprisoned, and authorship plagiarized. Instead of stories serving as modes of cultivating imagination and inspiring creativity and self-exploration, they realities that are created by exchanging the truth for a lie. The overall cause can be traced back to Adam and Eve’s displacement from God’s original story for His Creation by their disobedience, when the rejected God’s story for them in favor of the serpent’s. The result of that exchange of authorship has effects we see every day.
As believers, we are made uniquely with specific gifts and specific callings, never meant to take on the calling of another person. As Paul says in Romans 12, we are to “think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” We are meant to be individual, but individual with respect to the one body of Christ.
Ultimately, every human being participates in history. Every human being is the main character in his or her own personal history, as well as a sub-character in the history of the human race as a collective whole. Most personal histories begin with the main character and the events, thoughts, and emotions that occur throughout that history are narrated by that main character. Human beings live their lives through the lens of their own individual perspectives, communicating outwardly to somehow cement their personal place and meaning within history as a whole. Within every story, there are certain people, ideas, and actions that somehow shape or influence the outcome. Those people, ideas, and actions are what allow for any personal history to be connected structurally, as well as temporally. The entirety of the individual human story is concerned with his or her understanding of and search for connection within history.
As created beings in the image of God, we are part of the story that God began speaking into existence. When Adam and Eve first ate the fruit of the tree, they experienced a spiritual death, a breaking of the right relationship with the Creator. But that same God in whose image we are created is our one, true source and home. As a result, the only way to break free from the restlessness and brokenness with which humanity has wrestled throughout history, is through a restoration of relationship with our Creator God and a reintegration back into HIS story. That restoration and reintegration is only possible through the meaning and grace that God sent to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, the Word of God who spoke, is speaking, and will continue to speak purpose and meaning into each individual person’s story, as well as the story of humanity.
Resting at the very heart of humanity is right relationship with God that flows outward into right and full relationship to one another and to creation. Through Christ, we are re-membered into one body, maintaining individual identity with respect to how it brings about a universal flourishing of the entire created order. As human beings created in the image of God, we are meant for Shalom. We are meant to be in right relationship with God, Creation, and all of humanity. The only way that right relationship occurs is through the fabric of God’s story. “In the beginning God” and “It is finished,” orient the fabric of our reality in who we are, what to believe, and what to do.
Just as Shasta was reminded and given the promise of his own story by Aslan, so have we been given the truth of our stories by the very Creator and author of life. His story is the one story that is common to us all, whose authorship reminds, redeems, and reveals truth. It is a story that has been written by God, given meaning through Christ, and come to life and awareness in the Holy Spirit. In its manner of unfolding it reveals Christ, is for the sake of Christ, and pursues Christ. It is the one story that restores us to right relationship within our own narrative.
As Aslan speaks to Shasta, so the Lord speaks to us, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile” (Jeremiah 29:11-14).
St. Augustine’s book, Confessions, begins with the famous quote “You have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you” (I.1). One of my favorite music artists, Audrey Assad, has a song in which she echoes this declaration of restlessness, singing out to God to, “Speak now for my soul is listening. Say that You have saved me, whisper in the dark. ‘Cause I know You’re more than my salvation. Without you I am hopeless. Tell me who You are. You are the keeper of my heart…and I’m restless…’til I rest in You….Still my heart, hold me close. Let me hear, a still small voice.”
We hear many stories around us every day telling us who we are, what to believe, and what to do. The question is, whose story are you going to accept? To what voice are you listening? The challenge lies in listening and responding to the voice that is telling us our story. We know the voice that speaks the true story of our lives. But it is a still, small voice, for which we must listen attentively and create space to seek and find. Will we be still and know that He is God? Will we return and rest in His story for our lives? Our our hearts, our minds, and our lives listening to the voice telling us our true story?
Catherine Fields, Summer Intern & Writer in Residence
This summer we are pleased to have Catherine Fields joining us as a Writer in Residence with The SoulCare Project. Catherine was born and raised in Chattanooga, TN, earned her B.A. of Liberal Arts from St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD, and is currently a Pierce Fellow in graduate school at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA, pursuing a Masters of Divinity and a Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation.