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Winter 2006 | Volume 29, Number 1 | Features

“What If I Love ASLAN More Than JESUS?”

Lewis Answers an American Child's Distress

AMONG THE MANY THINGS for which C.S. Lewis is well-known is his personal correspondence with friends, family, and readers the world over. He was most careful and considerate with children. To them, he often revealed a human and playful side, whether telling a joke, gently disagreeing with a particular point, or heartily commending a drawing or insight. One child received high praise for having sketched especially lively “snaky snakes”; to others he revealed his loathing for math and fondness for mice; and though he commended eight siblings in one family for washing dishes and reading at the same time, he wanted to know, “How many plates do you smash in a month?”

In C.S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table, Erik Routley said of Lewis’ letters, “They were always written for you, and no one else. I think that was his great secret.”

Perhaps no one knows this better than Laurence Krieg, a member of the professional faculty in computer information systems at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Among his most prized possessions are eight letters that he and his mother, Philinda, received from Lewis between May 1955 and December 1958. Now kept in a safety deposit box, they reveal the very real concern and deep responsibility that Lewis felt for his writing and his young readers.

It began when 9-year-old Laurence, an eager fan of The Chronicles of Narnia, confided to his mother that he was afraid that he loved Aslan the lion (the Christ figure in the series) more than he loved Jesus. Did that make him an idol worshipper? Philinda promptly wrote in care of the publisher and told Lewis of her son’s confusion. So concerned was the author when he learned of Laurence's distress that the Kriegs had an answer in just 10 days.

“Tell Laurence from me, with my love,” Lewis wrote in a detailed letter, “ … [He] can't really love Aslan more than Jesus, even if he feels that's what he is doing. For the things he loves Aslan for doing or saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said. So that when Laurence thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus: and perhaps loving Him more than he ever did before. … I don’t think he need be bothered at all. God knows all about the way a little boy’s imagination works (He made it, after all) … .”

Before closing, Lewis asked if the boy would pray for him: “It would be kind and Christian-like if [Laurence] then added [to his prayer], ‘And if Mr. Lewis has worried any other children by his books or done them any harm, then please forgive him and help him never to do it again.’”

Krieg recalls being filled with excitement and wonder that someone who wrote a book would actually write to him. “As more letters arrived, the excitement didn’t diminish,” says Krieg. “If anything, it increased. Everything about his letters shows Lewis to have been a man of great humility, wisdom, and sensitivity. The way he handled my anxiety at the time has been a real inspiration to me. I still find it more helpful at times to picture Jesus as the Great Lion when I worship or meditate.”

Krieg says his three grown children are “very much Narnians at heart.” Small wonder after growing up in a household where they heard their father speak of Lewis as a friend. “I still consider myself fortunate to have benefited from Lewis’ love and wisdom at an early age,” he says. “I often think of Jack Lewis as my guardian ‘angel,’ looking down with amused tolerance (and often concern, I’m sure). I’m eager to rejoin him and get to know him better in Aslan's country!”

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