After our honeymoon in Colorado 23 years ago, a friend offered Charly and me the opportunity to make some money selling fireworks. The first 8 of our 10 days hanging out in the tent (just off of I-70 in Odessa, Missouri) were pretty boring. We played a lot of Chinese chess to pass the time and waited for that occasional person to show up and make a purchase. The last two days were completely different. We actually had crowds of people—those who had noticed our tent as they drove by during our days-in-waiting and were finally ready to buy their fireworks.
The night before the crowds arrived, we had returned from celebrating our two month anniversary with a dinner date at Stephenson's Apple Farm. Charly's mom and stepdad had stopped by to watch the tent for us while we were gone. We had said goodnight to them, and after staking down the tent securely we climbed into the back of our covered Toyota pickup truck (temporary home).
God then gave us a lightning show that was incredible—God-made fireworks like we'd never seen before. And we were in awe. We pondered the idea that we were selling man-made products to thrill-seekers to make a few explosions, when God could simply speak beauty and power into the the night, to which there was no comparison. This was the real deal.
In C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle, an ape named Shift devised an evil scheme of tying a lion skin to his reluctant donkey friend Puzzle, after they discovered it in Caldron Pool.
Puzzle said, “I don't think it would be respectful to the Great Lion, to Aslan himself, if an ass like me went about dressed up in a lion-skin.”
But Shift insisted and Puzzle, who could never seem to stand up to his intimidating friend, went along.
“A good deal of Puzzle's gray nose and face could be seen through the open mouth of the lion's head. No one who had ever seen a real lion would have been taken in for a moment. But if someone who had never seen a lion looked at Puzzle in his lion-skin he might just mistake him for a lion, if he didn't come too close, and if the light was not too good, and if Puzzle didn't let out a bray and didn't make any noise with his hoofs.”
King Tirian heard the news that Aslan had returned, and that he had commanded the Narnian forest to be cut down. Surprisingly, the Talking Beasts were also to become slaves of the Calormenes. Tirian went to see for himself and discovered an Ape, who was speaking on behalf of Aslan. Apparently Aslan was tired of speaking to stupid animals and was waiting inside the tent to pass on his messages to the Ape. The Ape told everyone that Aslan and Tash, the god of the Calormenes, were actually the same.
Tirian said this couldn't be and “meant to go on and ask how the terrible god Tash who fed on the blood of his people could possibly be the same as the good Lion by whose blood all Narnia was saved. If he had been allowed to speak, the rule of the Ape might have ended that day, the Beasts might have seen the truth and thrown the Ape down.”
But Tirian was captured and tied to a tree, unable to warn the Beasts of the great deception they were under. When Puzzle-dressed-as-Aslan made his appearance that night, Tirian was able to see his form.
“From where Tirian was he could not make out very clearly what the thing was; but he could see that it was yellow and hairy. He had never seen the Great Lion. He had never seen a common lion. He couldn't be sure that what he saw was not the real Aslan. He had not expected Aslan to look like that stiff thing which stood and said nothing. But how could one be sure? For a moment horrible thoughts went through his mind. Then he remembered the nonsense about Tash and Aslan being the same and knew the whole thing must be a cheat.”
And Tirian called out, “Alsan! Aslan! Aslan! Come and help us now.”
“But the darkness and the cold and the quietness went on just the same.”
“Let me be killed,” cried the King. “I ask nothing for myself. But come and save all of Narnia.”
“And there was still no change in the night or the wood, but there began to be a kind of change inside Tirian. Without knowing why, he began to feel a faint hope. And he felt somehow stronger.”
Strength comes in being able to distinguish the false from the real. The imitation from the genuine. The deception from the truth.
And there is hope in knowing there is something greater out there than our current reality.
We need the discernment that Tirian had, don't we? We can be too much like sheep, easily led astray.
We need discipline to tune our ears to listen for the Shepherd. And then we need determination to only follow His voice, wary of the thief who only wants to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10)
This morning I read about King Solomon and his building of the Temple. How interesting that he spent 7 years in its construction. And then spent 13 years building his own palace. (1 Kings 7)
God had been pleased with Solomon's request for a discerning spirit to govern well, when offered anything in the world. God then chose to bless him with not only discernment and wisdom, but with riches and honor as well, so that he became famous for miles around. (1 Kings 3)
I wonder how Solomon's life might have turned out differently if he had asked for self-control. 700 wives and 300 concubines seems pretty excessive, doesn't it?
Spending almost twice as long building a palace for himself as he did in building the Temple for the God of the universe may have been a mistake.
Maybe Solomon stopped focusing on God's greatness because he became too enamored by his own.
His life is a reminder to me of the need to distinguish between the real and the false. The genuine and the imitation. The truth and the deception.
The truth is there is only one God, the Creator of real fireworks. And He is not me.