Welcome to Inklings Week 2022! You can find all the posts for this week here.
This year for Inklings Week, I am taking my cue from Lewis and keeping my comments brief. He did that — he packed much in a few words.
“Child,” said the Lion, “I am telling you your story, not hers. No one told any story but their own.”
This line, stated twice within The Horse and His Boy, has stayed with me over the years and its lessons in kindness, discernment, privacy, and wisdom never end. Rarely does Lewis repeat a line, but this one is of such significance that Aslan says it to both Shasta and Aravis separately within the final pages of this story.
After numerous adventures and encounters with “many lions”, Shasta finds himself walking in a profound darkness next to something large. Upon questioning the unseen creature, Shasta learns it is a lion — the Lion.
“I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I as the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat n which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”
After this extraordinary revelation of providence, Shasta — thinking about his friend rather than himself — replies, “Then it was you wounded Aravis?”
“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”
Within moments, the scene shifts, and we are with the other protagonist within The Horse and His Boy, Aravis.
Her encounters with the lion have been very different from Shasta’s and upon meeting him she discovers it was he — with paws now “velvetted” — who chased her across the night and slashed her back with a swipe of his paw.
“It was I who wounded you,” said Aslan, “I am the only lion you met in all your journeyings.” He then proceeds to explain why he did what he did.
“The scratches on your back, tear for tear, throb for throb, blood for blood, were equal to the stripes laid on the back of your stepmother’s slave because of the drugged sleep you cast upon her. You needed to know what it felt like.”
Aravis immediately understands her actions have consequences and she has harmed another. She then asks if the servant will be okay now. But, rather than tell her the servant’s story or fate, Aslan replies again,“Child,” said the Lion, “I am telling you your story, not hers. No one told any story but their own.”
Lewis rarely states things twice so when he does, I pay attention. And the simplicity and depth of this concept never fails to stun me with its all-encompassing applicability.
I do not know another’s story — past, present, or future. I do not know of another’s anger, hurt, scars, wounds, or fears. I do not know another’s struggles, pain, joys or dreams. And to make assumptions, judgements, criticisms, or verdicts about another is not my place.
An opportunity to truly understand this concept came my way in 2016 and resulted in the book, Awful Beautiful Life, published in 2019.
Here is a short summary of this true story:
In 2013 Becky Powell’s husband committed suicide and, within a day, the DOJ, FBI, and SEC opened criminal investigations against Becky because her husband had taken $21.5 million from clients, colleagues, and friends.
So many people judged Becky — across the nation, as this made national headlines. Everyone wanted to know if she’d known what he was doing all along and how far she would go to maintain her lifestyle. They also assumed they knew the answers to both questions.
Becky, however, up-ended all those expectations. She turned her husband’s life insurance payouts to the court, sold her house, and — with the help of a group of dedicated and extraordinary lawyers — repaid every creditor 100% of their net loss and absorbed all the legal expenses. She held nothing back.
My point here is — we truly never know another’s story. We don’t know how they got to where they are or what their story will become in the next heartbeat. We may be invited alongside another for a moment or a lifetime, but we can never truly access the deepest part of their story or experience.
As I said, when Lewis says something twice, I pay attention.
Thank you so much for another inspiring and encouraging post Katherine! If you’ve missed any Inklings posts, be sure to check them out here.
About Katherine Reay: Katherine Reay is a national bestselling and award-winning author of several novels. She has enjoyed a lifelong affair with books and history, and brings that love to her stories. Katherine has also written one full-length nonfiction work.
She holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and has lived across the country with a few years in England and Ireland as well. A full-time author and mother of three children, Katherine and her husband currently live outside Chicago, IL.