There are certain things that are vital to being an adequate dad: 1) Teach and model the Gospel; 2) Love your wife well (see number 1); 3) Watch all of the Star Wars with your kids (in this order: Episode 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, and 6*); and 4) Read your kids the Chronicles of Narnia.
By God’s grace alone, I try my best to do numbers 1 and 2. I have already done number 3 with my oldest, but I think I started a little too early. My heart is still recovering by how much he seemed to enjoy Jar Jar Binks. However, the more I pattern the Gospel in his life, the more he will see the dark wickedness of his heart in this matter.
I have been waiting with bated breath for number 4, the grand unveiling of the Land of Narnia. By the way, that bated breath thing is a bit hyperbolic, as I think I would hyperventilate after a while. I actually tried to start reading the books when my eldest (now about to turn seven) was around five years old. That did not last long. However, after priming the pump with some fantastic E.B. White classics, “Charlotte’s Web” and “The Trumpet of the Swan”, I could tell he was ready.
We started with “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”, and I thought at first he was having trouble staying interested. However, the moment that the snow crunched under Lucy’s feet in the wardrobe, he was elated. The lamppost guided both he and her through to the fantastic and magical land of Narnia, a place where adventure, magic, faith, and grace meld together in vivid allegory. I have seen his jaw drop at the arrival of Aslan, watched his face cringe at the Stone Table, and let him bound around the room while the made-alive stone creatures rallied around the Great Lion, ready for battle. It has been everything I could have hoped for.
Let me confess though, that left to my own devices, I would ruin Narnia for him. I want him so badly to see the connection between Aslan and Jesus, and I have had to stop myself from sermonizing the beauty of the story. I want to flat out tell him that we are all Edmunds who will sell out our own brother and sisters for one more taste of Turkish Delight. I yearn for him to know that the mane-less cat on the Stone Table is meant to draw him to the beard-less god-man on the Cross. What would this accomplish at this point? It would confuse him, slow down the story, and turn a thrilling epic into spiritual autopsy. I would ruin Narnia.
Now, that is not to say that we don’t have conversations after reading that point in this direction, but at seven years-old, my desire is for Aslan to have his heart and for that heart to beat as a Narnian. There will be times for the deeper discussions that pick apart the illusions and allegory. For now, I want him to know that the Deeper Magic of the Emperor can make death work backwards and crush the Deep Magic of the White Witch. I want him dream about a narrow closet leading to the most wide-open land he can imagine. I want him to embrace a fearsome Lion-King who will lay his life down for a selfish little Son of Adam. At some point, Lord willing, he will see that a Lion’s breath bringing stone to life connects deeply with a slain Lamb who brings the dead to life.
That alone is worth the restraint.
*I have my reasons. I may also have a problem that needs professional help.