I have been struck, a bit like a shovel to the face, by certain lines from a series of children's books you may have heard of —The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. There's one line in particular I've been chewing on recently as I've been reading the books to my boys, and it has to do with a certain kind of cowardice.
That's right. I've been wrecked by a children's story. I was reading the book The Horse and His Boy and I came across a scene with the battle-hardened warhorse named Bree. He had never run from a fight. He was known to be brave and powerful. A warhorse among warhorses, you might say.
But then Bree is chased down by a lion. Not just any lion. The Lion, Aslan. He freaks out and runs away like a scared little pony. When we see Bree again, he's afraid to show his face in public. He's broken and ashamed by his cowardice in battle. He had never faced a foe like that Lion, a lion the size of, say, a transport van or something. It was a lion twice the size of any horse.
And now, after running away in battle, the warhorse Bree would face that Lion again.
C.S. Lewis on Fear and Courage
"Do Not Dare Not to Dare"
“Now, Bree,” he said, “you poor, proud, frightened Horse, draw near. Nearer still, my son. Do not dare not to dare." “Aslan,” said Bree in a shaken voice, “I’m afraid I must be rather a fool.” “Happy the Horse who knows that while he is still young." I think Lewis wants us to see that this fierce Lion Aslan is God Himself inviting the proud but now humbled Bree to become friend and family rather than enemy.
It was unsettling to Bree, of course. And it was unsettling for me, too. This line right here really got to me, because perhaps I can identify with it more than my proud warhorse heart wants to admit: "You poor, proud, frightened Horse, draw near. Nearer still, my son. Do not dare not to dare."
We all get scared at times. We're all tempted toward cowardice of one form or another. It's a human response. If you've never been afraid, I have to ask two questions. 1. Are you sane? 2. If so, when was the last time you pursued doing the right thing despite the consequences?
If you dare not to dare, you're at risk of wasting some important moments of opportunity that you were made for. There are risks we're called to in every area of life–in combat and as protectors, of course, but also spiritually and in our relationships. All of it requires a certain amount of daring and there are key moments in your life when the hesitation will cost you more.
A good analogy is my rock climbing trip many years ago in Washington State. I was lead climbing and I was two stories above my anchor on a dicey move. I didn't want to fall because I knew if I did, I'd be plummeting a good 30 to 40 feet before the rope caught.
My hesitation weakened me. When I finally decided to move, I missed the hold and took the fall anyway. It was actually pretty terrifying, made all the more so by delaying the discomfort of making the inevitably right decision.
Chasing Down Mediocrity
I can only assume that if you're a fan of the Warrior Poet Society, you aren't entirely pursuing a life of ease and comfort. Maybe like that warhorse Bree, you're a warhorse yourself in a lot of ways. You've proven yourself capable within certain skill sets.
But maybe you're also running away from some things at work, home, or in your spiritual life.
Bree had grown too confident in his own abilities, and the Lion wasn't going to let him settle. This terrified the seasoned warrior. The Lion knew some changes needed to happen. He wasn't interested in attacking Bree, but rather in attacking the mediocrity that had made Bree less than he should be. The mediocrity made him susceptible to cowardice, and he never saw it coming.
It's the same with us, I think. We like to just kick back, take it easy, find the easier path. But when you fail to take challenges head on and grow, the rest of the world is growing around you. Your peers are growing around you. Territory that you were meant to move into is instead moved into by your peers.
You may not notice it right away, but because you didn't dare, you ended up shrinking. There's no such thing as a plateau. There's no status quo. You are growing or you are dying.
You are either rising to meet new challenges or you're in decline. If you continue pursuing the status quo, you're making the decision to watch things wither in your life–your job, your marriage, other relationships, your life with God.
Here's My Main Point in All of This
We each have a Lion chasing us down because He wants to see us live. We're invited to draw near and nearer still away from what's comfortable and toward what's good. How will you respond?
Are you constantly avoiding the right and good things and choosing the easy path? If you're not constantly putting yourself into situations that scare you and grow you and threaten your comfort, fear is growing and your courage is slipping.
Perhaps like the great warhorse Bree you've done brave things in the past, but that doesn't do you any good in the future. You were the hero yesterday, but you might be slowly lulled into playing the coward tomorrow.
We can't rest on our laurels or on our bravery resumés.
You may be brave on a battlefield, but not so brave when it comes talking to girls, or making difficult business decisions. If we shrink back from every risk and every unknown, we risk becoming shadows of the men and women we are supposed to become.
Is Your Reality Built Around You or the One Who Made You?
I can't talk about all of this without addressing the furthest-reaching matter of all–the matter of faith. Are you growing to become more like Jesus or are you lapsing into a life made in your own image?
The more our lives and identities and views of the world are dependent upon us and our capacities, the more terrifying it becomes when the Lion is chasing you down with the reality of Himself.
If you're His enemy, you're up against an unconquerable foe. But, He's inviting you to draw near and nearer still as a son or daughter. Do you risk something by acknowledging that you're not God and that He is? By embracing the reality that He's the only hope we've got?"
Perhaps it seems that way, but the risk of a you-centered life and existence is infinitely greater than the risks of a life centered around the One who rules it all.
Anyway. Lewis is right. We can't afford not to dare. If you've read this far, thanks for bearing with me. I needed to get that off my chest. Please consider this my public service announcement.
Also please consider reading the good books. Life is too short to read crappy books. If you read the right ones, you read the good ones, they can really help guide your hearts, your minds, your souls into greener pastures, right?
Train hard, train smart, stay free, and let's grow together.