Fragrant, Tempting, Sticky Turkish Delight!
One sign that my readings of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe were just a tad shallow as a boy was that my major takeaway was an intense desire to try some Turkish Delight. I remember asking my parents to get me some. I'm pretty sure that to this day they don't know what that is. My guess is that it was probably a bit more popular in England than here in the States. So for a long time, I didn't get to try this delectable treat. But one day I spotted Turkish Delight at a Greek restaurant. I just stared at it for a while. It didn't look quite like what I had expected from Lewis' description.
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. He was quite warm now, and very comfortable. - LWW
I had been thinking of a light and fluffy pastry, perhaps best eaten when warm. This looked quite different, but I really wanted to try some. So I bought two servings of the Turkish Delight. It turned out to be an enormous disappointment. I am not at all enthusiastic about sugar-coated gelatinous fruity candies, and there was some additional objectionable flavor. To assuage my disappointment, I ordered one of my favorite Greek dishes, skordalia, and so had a quite satisfactory snack in the end. If you search the term "Turkish Delight", you get lots of hits that mention the Chronicles of Narnia, so I'd guess that I'm not the only one that Lewis got to try this treat. I wonder if he liked it? But Lewis wasn't trying to popularize fruity confections. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Turkish Delight is a picture of the power of sin to ensnare and entrap us.
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 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. But she did not offer him any more. - LWW
Turkish Delight, in itself, is not wrong. But Turkish Delight, offered by a witch, is a very dangerous thing. That kind of Turkish Delight is best left alone and uneaten. This is the picture Lewis uses to show us the way that sin tempts and entraps us. It is not the only way, but it is very common. Have a taste! Isn't it good? Wouldn't you like some more? Sin gives us an ill-gotten taste of what God created for us, and makes us empty promises for more, while all the while depriving us of the true blessings.
"It is a lovely place, my house," said the Queen. "I am sure you would like it. There are whole rooms full of Turkish Delight, and what's more, I have no children of my own. I want a nice boy whom I could bring up as a Prince and who would be King of Narnia when I am gone. While he was Prince he would wear a gold crown and eat Turkish Delight all day long; and you are much the cleverest and handsomest young man I've ever met. I think I would like to make you the Prince--some day, when you bring the others to visit me." - LWW
Here is the really sneaky thing about sin. We never, ever get anything from sin that we wouldn't have had a million times over if we just had patience to wait and receive it in the way that God intended to give it. And that is because sin does not have the power of creation, but only the power to corrupt. Through sin, we grab for God's blessings, but apart from his will and desire. So there is something sweet in what we steal for ourselves, but it is the sweetness that God put in it. And because we take it in sin, the sweetness is corrupted, fades and is replaced with unsatisfied longing and bitterness. Take a desire for acclaim and approval. We can pursue recognition from people, and it will taste sweet ... for a moment. And then people will be off for the next big thing and our accomplishments are forgotten. But God's "Well done, good and faithful servant" resounds and satisfies eternally. We might even pursue something that lasts a lifetime, like power and wealth. But even while we enjoy them, our appetites are not satisfied, and we find that we still need something more. So we are driven on and on, and where we once acted upon our desire, now the desire has enslaved and controlled us.
Edmund was already feeling uncomfortable from having eaten too many sweets, and when he 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. - LWW
But of course there was no Turkish Delight in the Witch's castle. She had no power nor desire to give Edmund Turkish Delight, and especially not to make him a king; she only desired to enslave and destroy him. Poor Edmund. And poor us. I have seen so many cases, not least among them my own, of being in thrall to sin. We cannot deliver ourselves from sin; but we can see signs that the One who is able to deliver is at work. One wonderful sign is that we begin to see goodness and beauty. We see that they are good again, just as they are, and that they are better without our sinful machinations to gain them for ourselves. We appreciate them and perhaps even love them a little though we know that we can no longer have them. And so a man at the end of his rope sees a beautiful woman and loves her for being beautiful and is thankful that she is beyond his power to corrupt and possess. He now sees beauty again and is glad that despite his efforts, beauty still exists uncorrupted. In this way, God readies a sinner for repentance. And when the sinner repents, he finds that beauty begins to invade his life, and instead of his needing to try to capture and possess beauty, beauty now enters into him. Then tasting those heavenly delights, he sees how much more satisfying and delightful blessings are when enjoyed in God's way and in his time.
"Mind your own business!" said the Dwarf ... But of course this didn't prevent Edmund from seeing. Only five minutes later he noticed a dozen crocuses growing round the foot of an old tree--gold and purple and white. Then came a sound even more delicious than the sound of the water. Close beside the path they were following a bird suddenly chirped from the branch of a tree. It was answered by the chuckle of another bird a little further off. And then, as if that had been a signal, there was chattering and chirruping in every direction, and then a moment of full song, ... - LWW
Sin promises us what God created us to enjoy, but can only deliver by corrupting. Do not be too hasty to escape the bitterness of sin. Instead, let it teach you to see the goodness of God and the sweetness of repentance. Do not in the rush to comfort another deny the mess that someone has made of life. But understand and teach that in repentance there is the restoration of God, and that his Son has laid down his life to restore to us what sin once took away. May you, dear reader, find the blessings of God unhindered by guilt or unhappy corruption. And of course, once a king in Narnia, always a king in Narnia!
Reprinted with permission from a contributing author, Hans Sun. The original post is from his blog: In Praise of Worship. We gratefully thank all our contributing authors.