“That shield is too heavy,” he said. “Here’s the one for you. Slip it on, thus. And understand from the outset; your shield is a weapon, not a wall. You’re fighting with it every bit as much as your sword. Watch me, now. You see the way I twist my shield—make it flicker like a butterfly. There’d be arrows and spears and sword points flying off it in every direction if we were in a hot engagement. Now: here’s your sword. No, not like that. You want to grip it firm, but light. It’s not a wild animal that’s trying to run away from you. That’s better. Now, your left foot forward. And don’t look at my face, look at my sword. It isn’t my face is going to fight you. . .” (Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis)
Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:13-17)
I wonder now, have I been using my faith like a wall to hide behind for protection? No harm in that I suppose except it is meant to be moved about, meeting the arrows before they get too close. My shield should be proactive, not just reactive. And God’s word, how I grip it as if it will slip completely away. Do I keep the Word to myself? Should I not wield it and throw it forth?
I sat there in my car and continued to read about the princess, her pain, and what she might do about it. With the windows down I could hear the honking of geese to my left. I couldn’t see them, but they were there in the distance somewhere. Then to my right I could hear the faint sound of music playing in the distance. I couldn’t make out the words, and I couldn’t tell where it was coming from, but I could hear it. It was a peaceful tune that rode right along with the cool breeze. When the birds began to chirp I wondered if such peace could really be so noisy? I couldn’t see the birds either. Were they a sign of coming spring? Finally in this kaleidoscope of sounds I heard a train in the distance. I don’t know where it was going or where it came from. I couldn’t see it. The sounds danced around me as I looked down at the pages and read a conversation that I had just had with God this morning. My conversation with God bounced off the pages of my book. God tapping on my heart again.
I was on my way to work when the conversation took place with God. I found myself in the midst of a pity party. I was thinking about all of the painful, life upturning, stress producing events that have taken place in the last 6 or 7 months of my life. Wondering, and yet knowing, how I haven’t yet completely cracked. As I found myself meditating on the ache of it all, I felt the tap on my heart and heard the words, “Now, let’s think for a moment of what you have to be thankful.” My mind immediately flashed to my Multitude of Gifts list. It then quickly shifted to a cross, a crown of thorns, the bloody body of an innocent man, his empty grave clothes, and the crowns I’ll be throwing at his feet some day. The tears began to trickle down my cheeks as I made my way toward the parking lot of my workplace. I then said to God, “There is so much ugliness in me. My righteousness is filthy rags.” I was ashamed of my self-centeredness. I didn’t hear anything. I just saw his gentle expression and felt his tender touch.
So now I find myself sitting at the wooded park, reading about Princess Orual and her own struggle with ugliness and heartache. At once I saw on the pages what looked so much like the words I had exchanged with my Lord earlier in the day. And where I had previously seen ugliness, I saw delight.
And my struggle was this. You may well believe that I had set out sad enough; I came on a sad errand. Now, flung at me like frolic or insolence, there came as if it were a voice—no words—but if you made it into words it would be, “Why should your heart not dance?” It’s the measure of my folly that my heart almost answered, “Why not?” I had to tell myself over like a lesson the infinite reasons it had not to dance. My heart to dance? . . . Even my ugliness I could not quite believe in. Who can feel ugly when the heart meets delight? It is as if, somewhere inside, within the hideous face and bony limbs, one is soft, fresh, lissome and desirable. (Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis)
The voice with no words was the voice of my Lord and encountering him in that moment became my delight yet again. He is my delight, and I am his. He washes the heaviness away and makes beauty from ashes.
Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land.” Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the Lord delights in you and will claim you as his bride. (Isaiah 62:4)
I didn’t expect the Lord to speak to me through a book of fiction, through the story of a mythological kingdom and a mythological princess. I don’t know how her story ends yet, but I know how mine ends. In the ever present assurance of my Savior who so tenderly speaks in the most ingenious ways.