There are some events if your life that you are able to remember so vividly due to the pleasant emotions that surround the memories. When I was around the age of twenty-two, I received the box set of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. I had never been exposed to any of Lewis’ work. As I opened the first book in the series, The Magician’s Nephew, the Narnia magic grabbed my by the collar and pulled me deep into the book. I spent several days reading the entire series. As I remember that week of my life, I am flooded with pleasant memories. I had never read fiction that made me love Christ more. I was reminded of how majestic, holy, good, and terrifying God is. Many people view fiction as something people read to be merely entertained, but good fiction is so much more. We learn through the art of story. After all, didn’t Jesus often use story to give theology a face? Lewis was a master in carving out fiction that brings us focus. We are reminded that the majestic lion, Aslan, who is the Christ figure in Narnia isn’t safe. “But He’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
It wasn’t long after my journey through the wardrobe, that I met some demons, Screwtape and Wormwood. In his book, The Screwtape Letters, I was reminded how strident Satan is in the destruction of man. How we are often manipulated through suggestion by unseen forces bent on our demise, or at least to bring us pain, misery, and unhappiness. We are reminded of the subtlety of the enemy. “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
A few years later I hailed a bus through heaven and hell in The Great Divorce. Everyone can take “the bus” to the destination of his or her choice. Some choose heaven, others hell, but all choose. As Lewis reminds us, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”
Next, it was in the widely read Mere Christianity that I consumed from Lewis. A masterpiece in apologetics that should be required reading for every believer. Here he gives us a powerful and rational defense for Christian belief, which at one point he rejected. Here we see the logical mind of a former atheist who assents to the truth, and then defends that truth passionately. He reminds us in Mere Christianity that he continued to have questions and struggles at times, which is a part if being intellectually honest and pursuing truth. He writes, “Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.”
We should remember that Lewis was happy in his atheism, as I would later find out when I read Surprised by Joy. Here is his account of when he bent his knee and will before God and accepted Christ. “You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” Lewis reached the point where he could not deny what was becoming increasingly apparent to both his intellect and his emotion, that God was real, came and dwelt among us, died for the sins of mankind, and had power over the grave.
Then it was earlier this year that I read Till We Have Faces. It is here that Lewis contrasts sacred and profane love. We are reminded that real love, correct love, does not consume, it gives.
I have now on my shelf, Lewis’ Space Trilogy. I have yet to read it. I am hesitant to take it off the shelf, but at the same time, I am incredibly ready to delve into more fiction conjured up by the mind of this tweedy, old Oxford don. I wait to read it only because I dread the day when I have no new books to read from this beloved author.
So why am I recounting with you the pleasant memories I have had with the works of Lewis? Simply because he passed from this world fifty years ago today. He is where he belongs. In his real country. He has journeyed “further up” and “further in.” We are blessed by his works. A life devoted to Christ is one to be celebrated.
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
So, what is your favorite Lewis book? How has he impacted you?
Last night, I finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy. I greatly enjoyed the books. They are highly entertaining stories that grip you from the beginning. As any good story does, they make you reflect about certain aspects of your own life. What I greatly enjoyed about the books is they directed my attention onto something we tend to avoiding thinking about: death.
Without revealing much about the stories, I will say they deeply explore death, grief, and its’ effects on individuals. We tend to avoid death much of the time. We skirt around the topic. We use flowery words to cover death’s harshness like “pass away”, “rest”, or “depart”. We deny it at times and live as though we might escape it, yet as scripture states “it is appointed unto men once to die.”
So, as I laid in bed last night closing the final page to the last book of the Hunger Games, I was forced to reckon with the fact that one day the final chapter of my own life will be closed. My story will be written in permanent ink and laid open for all to see. I was forced to think about who I am, who I love, and what I am doing for God.
Death is not a topic that I want to entertain on a daily basis, but it is something that we need to be cognizant of often. Why? Because, death keeps us focused on life. It centers us. It reminds us that we have a limited amount of time. It provides perspective on what is important. It demands that we not waste the amount of time we have been given, though some do.
The Bible reminds us in Pslam 90:12, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” In other words, remind us to live with the end in mind. Help us stay focused on the fact that today is a gift we should not squander. Prompt us to center our lives on what matters.
Let’s live with the end in mind. Let’s remember to tell those we hold dear that we love them daily. Let’s keep God in the center and serve with dizzying passion. Let’s give our families our precious time. Life goes by in a blink. Enjoy it. Value it. Live it full.
The good news is, for those of us in Christ, death is not the end.
“While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.”
-Leonardo Da Vinci
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed
Have you read the Hunger Games? I would love to hear your thoughts about how the books affected you!