In C.S. Lewis’ wildly popular The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, there is a powerful allegory that Lewis employs to vividly depict the nature of sin. Edmund, one of the four Pevensie children, falls prey to an evil White Witch almost immediately upon entering Narnia. The Witch finds Edmund wandering in the forest and asks what he would “like best to eat?” Edmund, cold and hungry, immediately perks up and asks for Turkish Delight.
The Queen let another drop fall from her bottle on to the snow, and instantly there appeared a round box, tied with green silk ribbon, which, when opened, turned out to contain several pounds of the best Turkish Delight. Each piece was sweet and light to the very centre and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious. … At first Edmund tried to remember that it is rude to speak with one’s mouth full, but soon he forgot about this and thought only of trying to shovel down as much Turkish Delight as he could, and the more he ate the more he wanted to eat … .
At last the Turkish Delight was all finished and Edmund was looking very hard at the empty box and wishing that she would ask him whether he would like some more. Probably the Queen knew quite well what he was thinking; for she knew, though Edmund did not, that this was enchanted Turkish Delight and that anyone who had once tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves.
Edmund, unknowingly, has just devoured poison. Delicious, fluffy, sweet poison. Shockingly, rather than being filled, the more he eats, the more hollow and hungry Edmund feels. And though it isn’t proving to be a very satisfying meal, it tastes so delicious that when the Witch mentions that she has “whole rooms full of Turkish Delight” back at her palace, Edmund swears to do whatever it takes to get there. The Witch promises to give him all of this and a throne next to her, if he will merely bring his brother and sisters with him.
Shortly after his run-in with the Witch, Edmund meets back up with his siblings and they share a hearty meal with Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, who warn the Pevensie children that there is an evil witch roaming about and they should stay vigilant, because she most certainly will be trying to kill them. As they are speaking, Edmund begins to feel a sense that he had done something wrong, but tells no one about his encounter with the White Witch,
When [Edmund] heard that the Lady he had made friends with was a dangerous witch he felt even more uncomfortable. But he still wanted to taste that Turkish Delight again more than he wanted anything else. … He had eaten his share of the dinner, but he hadn’t really enjoyed it because he was thinking all the time about Turkish Delight—and there’s nothing that spoils the taste of good ordinary food half so much as the memory of bad magic food.
Eventually, driven by his cavernous appetite for more Turkish Delight, Edmund sneaks out of the Beaver’s home into the cold winter night, and makes the long trek to the Witch’s palace. Upon arriving alone, the Witch furiously asks where his brother and sisters are. Edmund scornfully says that they aren’t anything special, and in desperation asks for more Turkish Delight, but the Witch laughs coldly and throws Edmund in a frigid prison. And there Edmund remains, till Aslan comes and frees him from the Witch’s bondage.
Satan, who the White Witch represents, works most powerfully into seducing us by tempting us, not with evil, nasty things, but with things that we love. Turkish Delight (though not my particular candy of choice) is not a bad thing in itself – the bottomless sensual appetite of Edmund that the enchanted candy awoke, however, is. We all have a particular weakness; something that we want so desperately that we will do just about anything for it. Maybe it is a relationship, or a parent’s approval, or a comfort, or the idea of being something great. Whatever it is, it typically isn’t a bad thing – but, whenever something becomes so primary to our identity and comfort that we will sacrifice anything to get it, Lewis tells us that it then becomes the deadly, enchanted Turkish Delight of the White Witch. Or, in biblical terms, it is described as sin.
Sin is like a fire, the more you feed it, the more it grows. If the idea of “success” is your one thing you need most, then at first getting the job, the grade, or the position on the team will fill that void you feel, but in time it will slowly become plain, ordinary and eventually boring, and you will get frustrated that the electricity that you once felt, is no longer present. So, to stave off the sense of emptiness from creeping in, you will get a new job, work yourself to death for a promotion, or take on more projects in hopes to get that thrill once more. And, like Edmund, when we have tasted the poison of sin, it spoils our appetites for ordinary good things. If “success” is your one thing, you will find that you cannot really enjoy your friends, family or even a good meal if you feel that you have not measured up to your idea of what “success” is. Your thoughts and affections are consumed by it, making everything else seem trivial and unimportant in comparison.
How can we defend ourselves from the seduction of our appetites? How can we possibly overcome our most base, instinctual desires that control us?
Simple: be filled with something more satisfying. Jesus Christ once encountered a woman at a well, who had made “romance” her one thing she desired most, and it had led her to go through five husbands. Jesus mentions that she is currently living with her boyfriend (which was much more uncommon in that time than it is today), which had to have been deeply embarrassing to the woman. But Jesus’ response to her is remarkable; He doesn’t just say, “Now, you know that adultery is a sin, so stop it, quit sleeping around and get your life together.” Jesus does confront the woman on her sinful lifestyle, but he goes deeper than just her adulterous behavior. He goes to the pit of her craving, the source, and offers her something better, and he describes it in the language of an appetite: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14). Jesus explains that the main problem isn’t her promiscuity or relationship problems, but that she is trying to satisfy her thirst with something that never will; she is drinking the wrong water. She is shoveling Turkish Delight into her mouth, desperately trying to satisfy her hunger and absolutely heart-broken that it isn’t working.
The message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not one of behavior modification, or religious ritual, or mystical nuances. The Gospel proclaims that Jesus offers us a fulfillment that satisfies our deepest thirsts – a satisfaction that no relationship, no job, no success and no comfort can give us. When you look to Jesus Christ as your source of beauty, meaning, love, and fulfillment, you find the One thing in the world that will not leave you feeling empty. St. Augustine says it well, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
“Taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Ps. 34:8).