Sunday, February 15, 2015
Setting Out in the Dark
Even though they are both amazing stories, I wish someone had warned me that it was a bad idea to read Unbroken and Blood Brothers back-to-back.
I'm sure you've heard of Unbroken, since it's a best seller and now a movie. It is most definitely as mind-blowing and incredible and redemptive as everyone says it is, but you have to get through years of torture and abuse and starvation to get there.
So picking up Blood Brothers right after was probably not the best choice. This book was a best seller in Germany, but only recently translated to English. It was written by an MK I knew in Liberia, who grew up on the same compound as me. I loved the descriptions of a childhood that paralleled my own, but when it got into the Liberian civil war, with its depictions of cannibalism and unfettered rape and children's heads indiscriminately smashed against walls, I was just about undone. These things happened on streets that I had walked, to people I had known.
In the middle of this, I read an article on Auschwitz, where 1 million people were murdered. How is that even possible, that one million people could be murdered in one facility over a period of just a few years? And then I read another article titled "ISIS militants are using mentally challenged children as suicide bombers and crucifying others."
All week, my world was grey. I felt like I needed my own PTSD counseling. How can I go about making the bed and watersliding with the kids and dicing up mangoes when such evil exists? "We have to watch The Office," I told Gil. "I can't sleep with this stuff in my head."
I can't, I can't, I can't deal with this reality, of what one man is capable of doing to another man, to a pregnant woman, to a baby. And I can't deal with the reality that the same depravity lies in my own heart, because we're not talking about isolated incidents of psychopaths. We're talking about the realities on every continent, in every generation. We can watch The Office all we want, but this is not going away.
And then another book cleared the grey.
I'm reading C.S. Lewis' The Silver Chair to the kids. There's a scene where the evil queen is trying to convince Puddleglum and the children that her black, ugly, hopeless Underworld is the only reality there is, and using her dark magic, she almost succeeds. At the very last moment, Puddleglum snaps them out of their stupor by announcing:
Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things--trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only one world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia....We're leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that's small loss if the world's as dull a place as you say.
Yes. We put up our heads and we set out in the dark.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own...They were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11)
Louie, Michael, and Ben--the main characters in Unbroken and Blood Brothers--they put their bets on Aslan. Me too.