Clothing as a spiritual metaphor

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I said before that sometimes I feel as if I were born in the wrong century. More often, I feel like I was born in the wrong country. Pardon me while I ramble for a bit. I am trying to unravel some thoughts.

Late one night, when I was about eight, I sneaked a flashlight under my covers to finish the last book in a series I had been devouring. When I finished the book I closed the cover, and crawled out of bed. I went to the kitchen to find my mom, forgetting that there was a group of adults over for the evening, all laughing and playing Monopoly. They stopped and turned to stare at me as I stood there in my pajamas, feeling totally embarrassed. I finally found my mom’s eye and could contain myself no longer. I burst into tears declaring, “Oh mom, I want to live in Narnia!” I don’t remember what happened after that- probably some amusement and some confusion. I think my mother thought I was crazy as she hurried me, sobbing, out of the room.

The book I had been reading was of course The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis. Many children have been affected in the same way by the Chronicles of Narnia, some even going so far as to take a hatchet to the back of their parents wardrobe, hoping to get into that magical land. The Last Battle gripped me hard as a child, and still does today because the majority of the book is a nightmare of a story. Nothing goes right- all the plans to save Narnia end in disaster. And just when you want to slam the book in despair, you see that the upheaval suddenly rights itself and all that was dark has become light. It is I think, the most compelling view of heaven I have ever read.

Many of you know that years ago we suffered the loss of our only daughter, Hosanna. She would be seven years old this month if she had lived, and I always think of her at this time of the year. We never got to see her alive, and after she was born, the nurse brought her back to us, dressed in a tiny handmade dress and a little knit hat that someone out there had lovingly made and donated to the hospital for cases such as ours. I had never thought to prepare anything for her. I was so grateful that someone had. I have been asking myself lately, as I work on dainty little dresses, why I feel compelled to do this kind of work. Am I trying to fill some kind of void? Why spend so much time and energy on mere clothing that will be stained and torn and outgrown in a few short months? Is clothing really important in the big scheme of things?

I remember sighing audibly at a church baby shower for a little girl just a few months after Hosanna died. I looked at the piles of pink and ruffled frocks and tried not to imagine how my own little girl would have looked in them. A sweet friend sitting next to me noticed my dejection and gently suggested that I try to imagine what glorious clothing my baby was wearing now. I have thought of her comment often since then, wondering what kind of clothing we will wear in heaven, and why, when Adam and Eve were perfect and naked in the garden, we will need clothing at all in the afterlife. The scriptures certainly mention our being clothed in heaven. And they are full of other clothing imagery as well- the taking off of the old life, and the putting on of the new. As a metaphor at the very least, clothing seems important.

But coming back around to Narnia, we see that Lewis takes that imagery and runs with it. We read as four children must pass through a wardrobe and clothe themselves in furs (a bit too big for them yet, but put on nonetheless) in order to enter Narnia. We watch as Narnia shakes off it’s winter robes at the coming of Aslan. Edmund significantly leaves his furs behind when he goes to betray the others. Aslan’s glorious mane is shorn off at death, only to return in resurrection, scattering beams of light. In a later book, Eustace must have his dragon’s hide torn off by Aslan, because all his clumsy attempts have been useless. But Aslan does not leave Eustace naked- he gives him new clothing. It is not enough to be stripped of your sin. You must put on Christ and his righteousness as a garment. Narnia helped me to understand this.

The fact is, I was born in the wrong country. I was not made for this world, or Narnia for that matter. All these longings to be conformed to the image of God, these desires to be in that ‘other place’, to change beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and a garment of praise for the spirit of grief- even an eight year old girl feels that pull. My daughter went straight from this life to her true home. She never had to read the allegory of Narnia to help her understand what God is trying to prepare us for in eternity. She never had to ask to be clothed in Christ’s righteousness. But we must take the longer road. We enter through the wardrobe, put on those heavy furs, and push on through the snow, looking for Aslan, waiting for springtime.

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4 thoughts on “Clothing as a spiritual metaphor

  1. crying as well. and saving this entry to add to my collection of letters that bring me hope to read and re read and read once more.

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