At the small Christian high school that I attended, Cornerstone Christian Academy, students maintain many different traditions that are important to the school’s culture. Cornerstonians participate in house games (yes, like in Harry Potter), they recite a special prayer before school starts each day, and they honor a beloved teacher who passed away from pancreatic cancer with a balloon send-off every year. While all of these traditions have a special place in my heart, perhaps the most impactful tradition to me was to read the book Do Hard Things for summer reading between the 9th and 10th grade, a tradition that still stands today.
The authors, and brothers, Brett and Alex Harris wrote the book with the specific purpose of motivating teenagers to overcome society’s expectations of them with the idea of “the rebelution.” This rebelution calls for teenagers to rebel and revolt against what people expect from the typical teen by instead “doing hard things.” They encourage teens to push themselves to do and be better by telling the stories of teenagers who have achieved greatness in some aspect by doing the hard thing. This book holds great significance at Cornerstone, as all of the teachers are constantly pushing students beyond their comfort zones in whatever they do, whether that be in artistic competitions or in their academics or even in how they treat the people that they care about.
Very similar to the students at Cornerstone and readers of Do Hard Things, the entire world has been pushed outside of its comfort zone as it deals with the effects of COVID-19. The pandemic has led to many difficult circumstances: healthcare and essential workers separated from their family to limit the spread of the virus, breadwinners of families unable to make an income, churches having to move to online services in order to keep congregations safe, victims of abuse now forced to spend all their time at home with their abuser(s), and people sick and dying in the hospital, unable to see their loved ones during their last moments. Life itself seems to have been broken down into nothing but mere Facetime or Zoom calls, with some Facebook live streams sprinkled in. Our typical sense of community has fallen apart.
Thankfully, I am very blessed to not have any family members who have contracted the virus. But I’ve had my own share of frustrations—losing out on the remainder of my senior year of college, having my graduation ceremony postponed, separated for weeks from my fiancé, etc., etc. If I’m honest, there have been moments in the past couple of weeks that have made me angry, even angry at God. I was so angry that I was even limiting myself from finding joy in the things that I love most just so I could blame that on Him, too. This was my state of existence for about two weeks until I reluctantly picked up Prince Caspian, the second book published in the Narnia series. About halfway through the book, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, accompanied by Trumpkin the dwarf, come to a great chasm on their way to Prince Caspian’s hovel. They must decide whether to take a route that will lead them straight to the hovel but may bring them into deadly territory or to take a route that is completely unknown to them. While the group is deciding, Lucy, the youngest of the group, looks up to see Aslan far off. She tells the group that she got a glimpse of Aslan and that he looks as if he wants them to follow him, but none of the others can see him. They take a vote on which way they should go, and they choose the more straightforward way instead of the way of Aslan. Lucy follows, crying the entire way. The group reaches the spot where they can head straight to the hovel, but they are spotted by enemy troops and almost killed. Before they know it, they are back right where they started, so they make camp for the night and go to sleep.
Lucy awakens in the middle of the night and is drawn into the forest by anthropomorphic trees dancing in the moonlight. As she walks further into the forest, she sees what appears to be a lion made of stone, but the closer she gets, she realizes that the lion is actually Aslan. She runs to the great lion, finding comfort in his soft mane. He welcomes her lovingly, but then brings up what happened earlier. She begins to blame the others, but she is corrected by a slight growl. Then she asks, “How could I – I couldn’t have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I? … oh well I suppose I could. Yes, and it wouldn’t have been alone, I know, not if I was with you. But what would have been the good?” Aslan only stares at her before she answers, “You mean … that it would have turned out all right—somehow? But how?” He replies, “To know what would have happened, child? … No. nobody is ever told that….But anyone can find out what will happen.”
Then Aslan directs Lucy to tell the others that she saw him again and that they must follow him whether they can see him or not. After Lucy tries to protest, she says, “Oh dear, oh dear… And I was so pleased at finding you again. And I thought you’d let me stay. And I thought you’d come roaring in and frighten all the enemies away—like last time. And now everything will be horrid.” Aslan replies, “It is hard for you little one…But things never happen the same way twice. It has been hard for us all in Narnia before now.”
It was this scene that God used to correct me of my anger. He made me aware of my sins of anger and lack of faith. I realized then what He was calling me to do, just like my teachers had done before and just like what Aslan was calling Lucy to do – a hard thing. Specifically, to be patient and wait on His timing and guidance through this uncertain time. The more I thought, the more I realized that we are all facing the task of doing hard things. And even though the hard things in this present time are leading to the greatest sense of loneliness that our generations may ever face, we can still have great hope.
In the scene when Lucy finds Aslan again, there are some great eternal truths that apply to us any time we are called to do hard things. The first truth is that we can find comfort in Christ similar to the way that Lucy finds comfort in Aslan. The text reads, “… she was kissing him and putting her arms as far round his neck as she could and burying her face in the beautiful silkiness of his mane. ‘Aslan, Aslan. Dear Aslan,’ sobbed Lucy. ‘At last.’” The second truth is that Christ welcomes us freely to Him, just as Aslan welcomes Lucy. The text says, “He bent forward and just touched her nose with his tongue. His warm breath came all round her. She gazed up into the large wise face. ‘Welcome, child,’ he said.” The final truth I want to draw attention to is that Christ will never leave or forsake us. In this scene in Prince Caspian, Aslan did not leave Lucy and her companions even after they lacked the faith to follow him down the unknown path. He waited for them patiently and corrected them lovingly so that they could do the even harder things that were to come.
Amidst this trying time, we, the Peters, Susans, Edmunds, and Lucys of the world must remember first that Christ calls us to do hard things. Remember second that we can find comfort and hope in Christ. Remember third that he welcomes us freely. And finally, remember that Christ made this promise to us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).