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One of my favorite scenes in the Chronicles of Narnia is near the beginning of The Silver Chair when Jill Pole first meets Aslan, the lion.

She cried herself dry after her friend was blown off the cliff to who-knows-where by Aslan. She is “dreadfully” (said in the best British accent you can come up with) thirsty and thinks she hears water. She doesn’t want to meet the lion again, but her thirst is so bad, she heads toward the water anyway. She finds the stream, but also finds the lion. And Aslan speaks to her, “If you’re thirsty, you may drink.”

The exchange between Jill and Aslan has her asking a lot of questions. My favorite is “Do you eat girls?” to which the reply is,

“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.

“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.

“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.

The scene is an obvious bow to Jesus’ words in John 7:37, “If anybody’s thirsty, they should come to me and have a drink!.”

What stands out to me in what Lewis wrote and Jesus said, is the word if.

“If you are thirsty” can sounds like, “Supposing you really are thirsty” or “Provided you’re thirsty,” if that is true, have a drink. It can seem like there is doubt or uncertainty on the part of the one making the statement. But we can be sure that is not the case for either the all-knowing Aslan or Jesus.

So if the if isn’t for them, who is it for? Why not make a declarative statement? Why didn’t Jesus just say, “You are thirsty!”

It is an assumptive if that triggers a reflective pause. It is a kind approach when you stop and think about it. It is a gift. Because Jesus knows coming straight-out and telling us what he knows about us doesn’t always help. He gives the gift of awareness.

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