When I was younger, I used to feel ashamed and a little embarrassed if there was a book everyone had read or a film everyone had seen that I hadn’t yet. I don’t think that way anymore. Life has pushed me to reconsider the experiences we have and the significance of when we have them, and I believe that the right stories come to us at the right times. I’ve found that all the best moments come to me when they are meant to, and there’s very little I can do personally to bring them on, slow them down, or will them to me when I think the time is ripe.
I first noticed this when I was eighteen and began reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time. Before then, I hadn’t even so much as seen the films. I couldn’t tell you why I was suddenly open to it, but that summer my aunt lent me her all-in-one volume, and I dove in.
The subsequent fall and winter were the loneliest I’d ever experienced. I was isolated, depressed, and anxious about a number of painful changes in my life. And cliché as it may sound, those books saved me. They walked with me through some of my worst years of depression. I still remember early mornings (after anxious, sleepless nights) when I’d put on my Return of the King DVD and fast forward to Sam carrying Frodo up the steep side of Mount Doom. As I navigated through undergrad battling the emptiness and anxiety within me, I’d tell myself that if Frodo could take the ring to Mordor, I could get out of bed and go to class. I could be present and try my best. Even the darkest nights would see the redemptive dawn. On long days when I was stuck on campus completely alone, I’d sit in my car between classes and listen to the LOTR soundtrack as I prayed and cried.
I look back on those days now and they’re so beautiful to me. I know without a doubt that the stories I read were saved for that appointed time, and they just wouldn’t have been the same if I’d read them any sooner or later. They came when they were meant to come. Since then, I don’t worry so much when I haven’t seen, watched, read, or heard something—because I know it’s making its way to me for the time when it will mean the most.
I suppose I was hoping for something similar when I read The Chronicles of Narnia series for the first time this spring.
The last few years have been hard, and though my depression has improved it continues to follow me like an old dog. Oftentimes, it is far behind me; right now, it feels close—almost in step. From what I knew about Narnia (namely that it’s a magical allegory centered on Jesus Christ and the faith I’ve held my whole life), it sounded like a hopeful, triumphant story, and I was ready for some revival. But it didn’t come. Instead, I was equally enamored and put off by the characterization of Jesus as the Lion. I was confronted with moments of darkness that sometimes led to happy endings but often did not. There were riddles and absurdities and lessons I still don’t think I understand. When I finished the last page of the series, I felt unsettled.
If I can be frank, I’ve been having doubts. The state of the world and some personal experiences have me questioning Jesus, and while I know doubt and questions are necessary parts of faith, they’re also scary and uncomfortable and something I’d rather not deal with just now. Yet here I am, on the other side of Narnia, neither revived nor invigorated—but saddled with the same questions I’ve been wrestling with for months.
I’ve continued to think about it and pray through it, and I’m starting to see that this, too, is exactly what I need at this time. I wanted to be saved from my depression and my doubts but reading these books has led me deeper into them—has forced me to really confront them and what I believe. Perhaps I’m having this reaction because I’m already in a depressed place, but I think the likelier truth is that these books have come to me, in this depressed place, not for a revival but for a reckoning.
These classics have been around and recommended to me for as long as I can remember. I had no interest in them until now, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. In some ways, that has undone me. In others, it’s left me impressed and curious about what’s next. Like Ecclesiastes says, a time for everything and everything in its time.
So, instead of worrying about or bracing for what’s next, what would it mean to just let it come and do what it’s been ordained to do in our lives? In my experience, it’s good and necessary—especially when it’s uncomfortable.
Has something come to you right when you needed it? Do you feel something coming now?