Courage, Dear Heart

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C.S. Lewis and his Chronicles of Narnia, despite being “children’s books”, have had a significant impact on my faith life because they illustrate abstract, theological principles in a gentle, simple, and story-like way. One of my favorite saints is St. Therese because she encourages us to have childlike faith and to relate to the Father like his little children. Reading the Chronicles of Narnia was, for me, like sitting in God’s lap, warm and safe, listening to His sweet voice as he read to me stories that spoke of His great love and tenderness.

I want to share with you all a passage from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader that has affected me in a profound way in the hopes that it will speak to you too. Some of you may have read this book or passage before, and if so, I invite you to really think about the beauty, depth, and hope that this passage portrays.

Just a bit of (very vague) background for those who haven’t read the Chronicles of Narnia: A crew is sailing by a mysterious and malignant island, from which they have rescued a man, and are surrounded by absolute darkness. Even though everyone on ship was in high spirits not long before, they are all beginning to lose hope that they will ever find their way out of the darkness. Lucy, a young girl, calls out to Aslan (the Christ figure in the land of Narnia) for help.

Drinian’s hand shook on the tiller and a line of cold sweat ran down his face. The same idea was occurring to everyone on board. “We shall never get out, never get out,” moaned the rowers. “He’s steering us wrong. We’re going round and round in circles. We shall never get out.” The stranger, who had been lying in a huddled heap on the deck, sat up and burst out into a horrible screaming laugh.

“Never get out!” he yelled. “That’s it. Of course. We shall never get out. What a fool I was to have thought they would let me go as easily as that. No, no, we shall never get out.”

Lucy leant her head on the edge of the fighting top and whispered, “Aslan, Aslan, if ever you loved us at all, send us help now.” The darkness did not grow any less, but she began to feel a little—a very, very little—better. “After all, nothing has really happened to us yet,” she thought.

“Look!” cried Rynelf’s voice hoarsely from the bows. There was a tiny speck of light ahead, and while they watched a broad beam of light fell from it upon the ship. It did not alter the surrounding darkness, but the whole ship was lit up as if by searchlight. Caspian blinked, stared round, saw the faces of his companions all with wild, fixed expressions. Everyone was staring in the same direction: behind everyone lay his black, sharply-edged shadow.

Lucy looked along the beam and presently saw something in it. At first it looked like a cross, then it looked like an aeroplane, then it looked like a kite, and at last with a whirring of wings it was right overhead and was an albatross. It circled three times round the mast and then perched for an instant on the crest of the gilded dragon at the prow. It called out in a strong sweet voice what seemed to be words though no one understood them. After that it spread its wings, rose, and began to fly slowly ahead, bearing a little to starboard. Drinian steered after it not doubting that it offered good guidance. But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.

In a few moments the darkness turned into a greyness ahead, and then, almost before they dared to begin hoping, they had shot out into the sunlight and were in the warm, blue world again. And all at once everybody realized that there was nothing to be afraid of and never had been. They blinked their eyes and looked about them. The brightness of the ship herself astonished them: they had half expected to find that the darkness would cling to the white and the green and the gold in the form of some grime or scum. And then first one, and then another, began laughing.

I don’t want to say too much of my own thoughts because I want this passage to speak to you in the way that God desires. What I will say is that I have found great comfort in the simple words, “Courage, dear heart”. When life is dark, unknown, and lonely, God sends us messages of hope. These messages, if we look for them, are reminders that God is always with us, providing us with the strength and courage that we need to persevere. The next time that you find yourself in a moment of darkness, I hope that you think of this passage and, like Lucy, call out to God for help. Your albatross won’t be far behind.