Treasure in the Belly of the Beast
The Knight-Eater crouched in our garage. In a fit of creativity and whimsy, my parents had painted a tall metal cabinet canary yellow. Then they added on a cartoony orange dragon tail with a suspicious bulge in the middle that wrapped around the cabinet. Thus, the "Knight-Eater" was born.
The Knight-Eater held the keys to an entire world of creativity and fantasy for my brother, sister, and me. Inside its belly, we kept brushes, paints, Plaster of Paris, dowels, yarn, and other remnants of old crafts my mother had attempted. But most importantly, the Knight-Eater held an old, scratched-up boxed set of books. Their worn pages were turned down at the corners where my mother had marked the pages repeatedly and the edges were frayed.
Every winter, my mother would rescue the boxed set from the Knight-Eater's belly and pack it in her bag to read to us on our winter vacation. My family had a special vacation place, a small Christian camp near Redlands called Forest Home. My father would work on sermons, read books to help him with his ministry, and spend hours in prayer, while my mother would take us on walks around the empty lake, through the snowy trails, and around all the bare places that were normally full during the summer. In the evenings, we would light a fire and my mother would read to us from the boxed set of C. S. Lewis's famous series, The Chronicles of Narnia.
In my child's mind, Forest Home and Narnia were inextricably linked. The forests we walked through in the winter became the forests of Narnia when the White Witch had them under enchantment, and the coast of that empty lake became the coast of Narnia when the castles lay in ruins. Much of my early understanding about God and Jesus Christ came from the stories in those books. My heart swelled with joy and courage when Aslan (the Christ-figure in the books) came back to life and led the Narnians to victory. I related to Eustace from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader who was ill-spirited and selfish, but who Aslan appeared to and helped him change. And to Lucy whose simple faith was more important than her siblings’ intelligence or physical strength. Even now, as an adult my faith is strengthened by the story of Puddleglum in The Silver Chair who chose to believe in Aslan and Narnia even though it caused him great pain and ridicule to do so. It took our family years to get through all the books, and that tattered paperback set in the Knight-Eater lay in wait for us all through the school year, waiting to bring us new adventures and teach us more about the real Christ and the joy and freedom that Christians can have.
Now I am twenty-nine years old. The Knight-Eater still sits in my parent’s garage and my husband and I have a baby boy of our own. Next summer, my husband and I will take him to Forest Home for their summer camp for the first time. When he’s older, I will read the Chronicles of Narnia to him and I will tell him what they mean to me. Perhaps I will paint a yellow Knight-Eater cabinet of my own to hold the craft supplies my son will play with and he will open it sometimes to find the treasure we will keep there- the treasure of family, love, and faith.