Monthly Archives: November 2015

All I Needed

IMG_3248 “‘But please, please- won’t you- can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?’ Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself” (C. S. Lewis- The Magician’s Nephew).

If ever there was the theme of grief and despair in Literature from the point of view of a child, it is found throughout the story of C. S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew. The book opens with a young Digory introduced as a blubbing boy (another way of saying crying like a baby). He later explains that “so would you… if you’d lived all your life in the country and had a pony, and a river at the bottom of the garden, and then been brought to live in a beastly hole like this… And if your father was away in India- and you had to come and live with an Aunt and an Uncle who’s mad- and if the reason was that they were looking after your Mother- and if your Mother was ill and was going to- going to- die.”

The story is really quite a fantasy. Digory and Polly, through circumstances not their choosing explore new worlds. Along the way they become friends and overcome their differences all while attempting to somewhat forget the reality of Digory’s situation. And yet throughout the adventures of the story, nagging at the main character is the underlying despair of his dying mother. One gets the sense that death is certain and the child character Digory is trying to come to grips with it.

At Christ Lutheran this past Veteran’s day the theme of grief and despair was relayed to our students through stories from veterans in our community. These veterans visited our classrooms after a special chapel service dedicated to their service. Students were captivated by the descriptions of the norms of war and service in the military. Stories of how to survive while being forced to drink dirty water, sleeping wherever one could find comfort, and being in a foreign land at the age of 18 spoke to the students in my classroom.

Throughout the discussion of one particular veteran that saw a lot of fighting in Italy in World War II, the theme of despair was a real impact for the students in my class. The veteran spoke of the duty of being the first one into battle regardless of the consequences. The students were silent as this man spoke of courage, fear, and despair. When it came to the end of the discussion, the veterans were asked to share the most important thing that they wanted the kids of our class to know. The World War II veteran immediately said that, “even in the darkest of despair, all I needed to know I learned in my Lutheran School. I knew that Jesus was with me.” The students and teachers were speechless. Everyone in the room had heard what it took for this soldier to move forward into battle against almost certain death and despair and when he was asked what was most important for kids to know, it was that despite the horrid conditions of war, God was with him.

Our Lutheran Schools teach that God is with us. We teach that we are made in His image. With the Bible as our foundation, we instruct students of the importance of God’s direction in our life. With that in mind, we pray that when our students grow up and meet the challenges that lie ahead, that their foundation is solid, that they can meet despair with the knowledge that God is with them, and that it matters. Being chosen by God, we pray that in the darkest hour, our students can say to God “not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42 English Standard Version).