Lucy Pevensie scans the deck of the Dawn Treader in panic. A gloom like a rolling fog pressses upon the ship as the prow slices through a black sea. Sweat beads Drinian’s brow as he clutches the tiller. Caspian, the noble prince who freed the company from captivity and vanquished a sea serpent, twitches in response to sinister voices no one else can hear. As their dreams come alive off the shores of the Dark Island, doom hovers over the Narnians like a brooding stormcloud.
Curled on the couch with my two kids, I pause, wondering if this scene from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader will induce nightmares. Is the mounting threat too much? Will my son struggle to fall asleep that night, and will my little girl, presently crunching goldfish crackers, awake at 11 pm with a nightmare?
My daughter swallows, and furrows her brow. Here it comes, I think, with a twinge of worry.
“Mommy?” she says. “Shouldn’t they call Aslan for help now?”
Indeed they should, my wonderful, dear one. We read on.
A light bursts through the dark, chasing away the shadows like a beacon. It guides them out of the murk, out of the clouded waters, into a brilliance of clear sky, white light, and sunbeams dappling the blue. Lucy discerns a shape silhouetted against the radiance. Is it a cross? No, an albatross, its great wings sharp against the light. As it wheels above, Lucy hears Aslan’s voice upon the air: “Courage, dear one.”
I pause, and push back tears. My daughter, cracker crumbs still clinging to her fingers, burrows against me on the sofa cushion. A satisfied grin brightens her face.
“It’s kind of like the Spirit, in the form of a dove,” she says.
Oh, dear one, yes. Yes, it is.
She glances up at me, and implores me to read just one more chapter. As I do, I fight against the ache in my chest. Her trials right now consist of skinned knees, and squabbles with her brother over nightly cartoons. She’s known loss only through the lens of Christian love, with brothers and sisters departing to be with Jesus. She’s known hurt only within the cocoon of a family that adores her every muddy footprint, quirky shrug, and passion for all the colors.
One day, I know, that cocoon will not hold. The shield will break, and the gloom will rush in, as a river surging through a crack in the seawall.
One day, she’ll lose her way across turbulent seas, and the skies will blacken. The winds will blow her toward her wrong shore, and she’ll wander, lost, with a storm crackling above as she longs for rescue. For light. For home. For someone to gather her again into a warm embrace, and call her “dear one.”
Oh Lord, when that day comes, let her turn to you. Let her call out to you, as the winds whip her hair, and as the rain pelts her face. Let her seek you, and speak your name, even when the gale drowns out her voice, and no glimmer of light flickers on the horizon.
Like the psalmists when affliction drove them, moaning, to their knees, let her “appeal to this: to the years of the right hand of the Most High.” (Ps. 77:10)
When the wormwood and the gall assail her, let her draw hope from your new mercies each morning (Lam. 3:20-24).
Let her reach for you, Lord, when the heartbreak comes, and the grief. Let her remember you, when pandemics and illness and regret and betrayal tear her heart asunder. Let her search for you, when the darkness looms, and when sorrow swallows up the sun.
And when you answer her call, let her recognize her voice. When you claim her as your “dear one,” let her know you, and relax into your embrace. When on elegant wings you usher her toward the light, let her recognize your work in every wingbeat, your grace in every breath, your majesty in every blessing you whisper upon the earth.
We close the book, and I plant a kiss atop her head. The dark days will come, but for now, we have dreams of seaspray. We have the sun sinking beneath an ocean horizon, the waves catching the light like facets of so many jewels.
And even when the gloom encroaches, hope will linger just above, His silhouette sharp against the sky, ready to call my dear one His own.