I fell in love with King Arthur and the Matter of Britain (the whole cycle of stories that come out of that legend) in high school when we read Idylls of the King. The language of Tennyson, the mystery of a baby hidden away to be later revealed as the rightful ruler, the promise of his return in the hour of Britain’s greatest need all tugged at my imagination and made me desire more than anything that it be true.
I grew up in a Christian home. Even as a small child I wanted nothing more than to be a missionary. Missionaries were often in our home and I loved to listen to their tales of life in exotic countries, doing the most important thing anyone could ever do—share the good news of Jesus Christ. In Arthur I saw a type of Jesus—a king worth serving with all my heart.
The Crystal Cave is from Merlin’s point-of-view and ends with the birth of Arthur. The baby is whisked away to be raised in secret lest he be torn apart by his father’s enemies. A page named Ralph in the service of Arthur’s mother, Queen Igern, is sent with him to protect him—away from court, away from what seem to be the significant events of the kingdom. We next see Ralph in the second book of Mary Stewart’s series, The Hollow Hills. He is chasing after a rambunctious nine-year-old who loves nothing better than to escape his tutors and go racing through the countryside on his stallion. The child has no idea that he is the son of the dead king and rightful ruler of all Britain. Ralph has spent the last nine years babysitting at the back of beyond. No one but Merlin recognizes the significance of the sometimes-very-frustrating service he has rendered.
For me as a young adult wanting to be at the very heart of what God was doing in the world, that secular novel was a wake-up call. What if God asked me to babysit? What if he had chosen me to do something obscure that no one else recognized as important? Would I do it faithfully like a knight of the Round Table? Was I really willing to submit to the glorious King to whom I had sworn my allegiance--even if he asked me to serve in the background where no one would notice?
Even if it were boring?
Or as frustrating as chasing an unruly nine-year-old?
Before God could use me as a missionary in another culture, I needed to be willing to stay in boring old suburbia if that was what my King asked of me.
Once I got past that need to submit, God did not keep me in suburbia. My life has been anything but boring, living in Ethiopia during the Communist revolution, Brazil as they came out of a military dictatorship, Mozambique during their civil war and South Africa at the time of their first democratic elections.
I’m a librarian by training. Eventually moved from classifying books to writing them. But whether I am cataloguing material for a missions study center in Croatia or using the internet to coach an African writer and polish her work for publication, I am doing it as a servant of my King--a king with far more power and authority, glory and majesty than any Medieval Monarch, even Arthur himself.
And my King is real!
His kingdom won’t fall like the mythical Camelot. It lasts forever. Serving him is the most incredible way you can spend your life.
**Originally presented in the chapel of Biola University, April 17, 2015.