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Faith


An excerpt from The Joyful Christian – Readings from C. S. Lewis

The question of Faith…arises after a man has tried his level best to practice the Christian virtues, and found that he fails, and seen that even if he could he would only be giving back to God what was already God’s own. In other words, he discovers his bankruptcy. Now, once again, what God cares about is not exactly our actions. What he cares about is that we should be creatures of a certain kind of quality–the kind of creatures He intended us to be–creatures related to Himself in a certain way. I do not add “and related to one another in a certain way” because that is included: if you are right with Him, you will inevitably be right with all your fellow creatures, just as if all the spokes of a wheel are fitted rightly into the hub and the rim, they are bound to be in the right positions to one another. And as long as a man is thinking of God as an Examiner who has set a sort of paper to do, or as the opposite party in a sort of bargain–as long as he is thinking of claims and counterclaims between himself and God–he is not yet in the right relation to Him. He is misunderstanding what he is and what God is. And he cannot get into the right relation until he has discovered the fact of our bankruptcy.

When I say “discovered”, I mean really discovered: not simply said it parrot-fashion. Of course, any child, if given a certain kind of religious education, will soon learn to say that we have nothing to offer God that is not already His own and that we find ourselves failing to offer even that without keeping something back. But I am talking of really discovering this: really finding out by experience that it is true.

Now we cannot, in that sense discover our failure to keep God’s law except by trying our very hardest (and then failing). Unless we really try whatever we say there will always be at the back of our minds the idea that, if we try harder next time, we shall succeed in being completely good. Thus, in one sense, the road back to God is a road of moral effort, of trying harder and harder. But in another sense it is not trying that is ever going to bring us home. All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say “You must do this. I can’t.” Do not, I implore you, start asking yourselves, “Have I reached that moment?” Do not sit down and start watching your own mind to see if it is coming along. That puts a man quite on the wrong track. When the most important things in our life happen, we quite often do not know, at the moment, what is going on. A man does not always say to himself, “Hullo! I’m growing up.” You can see it even in simple matters. A man who starts anxiously watching to see whether he is going to sleep is very likely to remain wide awake. As well, the thing I am talking of now may not happen to everyone in a sudden flash–as it did to St. Paul or Bunyan: it may be so gradual that no one could ever point to a particular year. And what matters is the nature of the change in itself, not how we feel while it is happening. It is the change from being confident about our own efforts to the state in which we despair of doing anything for ourselves and leave it to God.

So perhaps we need to get to the point of Surrender.

Songs about Home

Have you ever noticed how many songs there are about home?:

Homeward Bound (Simon & Garfunkel)
I wish I was, Homeward bound,
Home where my thought’s escaping,
Home where my music’s playing,
Home where my love lies waiting
Silently for me.

Take Me Home, Country Roads
I hear her voice in the morning hour she calls me
The radio reminds me of my home far away
And driving down the road I get a feeling
That I should have been home yesterday, yesterday

Can’t Find my Way Home (Steve Windwood)
You are the reason I’ve been waiting so long
Somebody holds the key
Well, I’m near the end and I just aint got the time
And I’m wasted and I cant find my way home

Green, Green Grass of Home (Tom Jones)
It’s good to touch the green, green grass of home.
Yes, they’ll all come to meet me,
arms reaching, smiling sweetly.
It’s good to touch the green, green grass of home.

Home (Chris Daughtry)
I’m going home,
Back to the place where I belong,
And where your love has always been enough for me.
I’m not running from.
No, I think you got me all wrong.
I don’t regret this life I chose for me.
But these places and these faces are getting old.
So I’m going home.I’m going home

I know there’s many, many more songs about home. But, really — what is this mysteriously place we call home? I don’t really buy that old expression “Home is where the heart is” unless the Holy Spirit has taken up residence within that heart. And even then, there is a longing for this seemingly unattainable peace, this distant memory just beyond my reach where I am safe from harm.

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I am originally from Virginia. My family also lived in Charlotte, NC. Of the three places I have called my home, I spent the least amount of time there. So, why do I long for that home? What is it about that place? I think I’ve finally figured it out. It has nothing to do with the place. It has to do with the circumstances. This is where I lived with my intact, traditional family shortly before everything went to sh*t. A house where I felt safe and protected — and even that was an illusion that would soon come crashing down. I used to sneak into my big sister’s room and listen to this song on her record player, which is my very favorite “Home” song:

“Sometimes I wonder if I’m ever gonna make it home again. It’s so far and out of sight. I won’t be happy until I see you alone again. Till I’m home again and feeling right. I want to be home again and feeling right.”

I want my children to grow up in a place where they feel protected, cherished and loved –knowing full well that a home here on earth is an illusion. God created us with a longing for our eternal home. Whether or not a person buys into that explanation doesn’t change the reality that within each of us that longing resides. In “The Weight of Glory”, C. S. Lewis writes:

In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name.

Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing.
These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years. Almost our whole education has been directed to silencing this shy, persistent, inner voice; almost all our modem philosophies have been devised to convince us that the good of man is to be found on this earth. And yet it is a remarkable thing that such philosophies of Progress or Creative Evolution themselves bear reluctant witness to the truth that our real goal is elsewhere. When they want to convince you that earth is your home, notice how they set about it. They begin by trying to persuade you that earth can be made into heaven, thus giving a sop to your sense of exile in earth as it is. Next, they tell you that this fortunate event is still a good way off in the future, thus giving a sop to your knowledge that the fatherland is not here and now.

Finally, lest your longing for the transtemporal should awake and spoil the whole affair, they use any rhetoric that comes to hand to keep out of your mind the recollection that even if all the happiness they promised could come to man on earth, yet still each generation would lose it by death, including the last generation of all, and the whole story would be nothing, not even a story, for ever and ever.

This is not our home. As my Aunt Phyliss might say, “Sugar, our home is Way Over Yonder

For the record, I’m the younger sister, not the one holding the cat. That cat hated me. This might have something to do with the fact that I dressed him in Baby Tender Love dresses and forced him into my toy baby stroller. I suppose I’ll never know for sure…

C. S. Lewis and Atheism

I have read a grand total of eight books by C. S. Lewis from cover to cover. Seven of them were “The Chronicles of Narnia” series and the other was a very short book called “The Screwtape Letters”. I love reading quotes by Lewis, but reading one of his books is, for me, akin to reading “Rocket Science: A Brief Overview” or “For the Love of Math”. Not really something I can just skim through. I’ve had a copy of “The Joyful Christian” for probably a year, but I also have a pile of other books on my nightstand with bookmarks in all of them. I’ve been a bit intimidated at the thought of cracking open this book, but I ventured a peek yesterday. I was relieved to find that it is a compilation of writings, most of which are 2 to 3 pages long: C. S. Lewis for the short attention span or “Lewis: The Cliff Notes Edition”. Oh yeah, I am all OVER that! Here an excerpt that Keller also quoted in “The Reason for God”:

Atheism:

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too — for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist — in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless — I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality — namely my idea of justice — was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.

I don’t care who you are, that’s some good stuff, there. And I’m pretty sure Lewis has his hand on his head in the above picture because his brain is hurting. Have an awesome Sunday; you’re in my prayers.