Meditations with C. S. Lewis: Further up and further in!

This month LHP is highlighting some of our readers’ favorite previous posts from our authors.  We hope you enjoy them!

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C. S. Lewis, best known as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, was also one of the most profound thinkers of twentieth century Christianity.  Along with J. R. R. Tolkien, he has inspired millions of people, include all of the authors at Lantern Hollow Press.  On Sundays we would like to take a moment to offer up a little Lewis for your consideration.

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I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!
–Jewel the Unicorn, The Last Battle

It is amazing how much of the human experience (and the promise of Christianity) is summed up in these few words.  It encapsulates both the finite, mortal nature of humanity, and it screams out the promise offered to those to whom Christ will one day say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

To nearly everyone who has taken the time to think about it, the experience of life is summed up by constant motion and perpetual change.  As each moment fades imperceptibly into the next, we learn that nothing remains the same for long.  Bound by the law of entropy as surely as the smallest particle of physical reality, our lives can go only one of two directions:  forward or backward.  We either grow and blossom into something new and different or we degenerate into wasted potential.  In it’s ideal form, the Christian life is a perfect picture of this.  There are always new trails to explore, new knowledge to acquire, new experiences to have, and each is unique from the last.

The problem is that everything in the universe tends toward decay.  In fact, we have to pursue constant and intentional forward motion to prevent it.  The older I get, the more apparent this becomes as my body slows down and begins the tiring process of degeneration.  It is also clear in the lives of anyone who, for one reason for another, cannot or does not attempt to better themselves.  To stand still is the surest way to see ourselves slump into sloth, destitution, disease, and want.

Worse, we are born into a reality where this is a losing battle from the very beginning.  From the moment our first cries echo through a harsh, cold world, we are living on borrowed time.  When we are young, we tend not to notice, but as we age the truth becomes inescapable; we say with Frodo (though for very different reasons), “Will I ever look down into that valley again?”  Will I ever hold my loved one in my arms again?  Will this be the last time I cuddle on the couch with my child before she is “too old” for that sort of thing?  How much longer can I perform at this level?  The end, of course, comes eventually.  We die, our bodies broken and wracked with pain, our treasured experiences spent, and the world moves on without us giving hardly a blink.

And that leads us to one of the truly amazing promises upon which Christians stand:  Our story, short as it is, is not over with death.  We will be translated into a new world that has no end.  There will be time to truly understand, to experience, to love, to build, to create…and we will do so basking in the light of the One “by whom all things were made” and the One who loves us enough that He suffered and died to ensure that we have the chance to experience mortal life and what lies beyond it.

Further up and further in, indeed!

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Click here for the entire run of “Meditations with C. S. Lewis” so far.

Meditations with C. S. Lewis: Further up and further in!

C. S. Lewis, best known as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, was also one of the most profound thinkers of twentieth century Christianity.  Along with J. R. R. Tolkien, he has inspired millions of people, include all of the authors at Lantern Hollow Press.  On Sundays we would like to take a moment to offer up a little Lewis for your consideration.

__________

I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!
–Jewel the Unicorn, The Last Battle

It is amazing how much of the human experience (and the promise of Christianity) is summed up in these few words.  It encapsulates both the finite, mortal nature of humanity, and it screams out the promise offered to those to whom Christ will one day say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

To nearly everyone who has taken the time to think about it, the experience of life is summed up by constant motion and perpetual change.  As each moment fades imperceptibly into the next, we learn that nothing remains the same for long.  Bound by the law of entropy as surely as the smallest particle of physical reality, our lives can go only one of two directions:  forward or backward.  We either grow and blossom into something new and different or we degenerate into wasted potential.  In it’s ideal form, the Christian life is a perfect picture of this.  There are always new trails to explore, new knowledge to acquire, new experiences to have, and each is unique from the last.

The problem is that everything in the universe tends toward decay.  In fact, we have to pursue constant and intentional forward motion to prevent it.  The older I get, the more apparent this becomes as my body slows down and begins the tiring process of degeneration.  It is also clear in the lives of anyone who, for one reason for another, cannot or does not attempt to better themselves.  To stand still is the surest way to see ourselves slump into sloth, destitution, disease, and want.

Worse, we are born into a reality where this is a losing battle from the very beginning.  From the moment our first cries echo through a harsh, cold world, we are living on borrowed time.  When we are young, we tend not to notice, but as we age the truth becomes inescapable; we say with Frodo (though for very different reasons), “Will I ever look down into that valley again?”  Will I ever hold my loved one in my arms again?  Will this be the last time I cuddle on the couch with my child before she is “too old” for that sort of thing?  How much longer can I perform at this level?  The end, of course, comes eventually.  We die, our bodies broken and wracked with pain, our treasured experiences spent, and the world moves on without us giving hardly a blink.

And that leads us to one of the truly amazing promises upon which Christians stand:  Our story, short as it is, is not over with death.  We will be translated into a new world that has no end.  There will be time to truly understand, to experience, to love, to build, to create…and we will do so basking in the light of the One “by whom all things were made” and the One who loves us enough that He suffered and died to ensure that we have the chance to experience mortal life and what lies beyond it.

Further up and further in, indeed!

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Click here for the entire run of “Meditations with C. S. Lewis” so far.

Meditations with C. S. Lewis: Promised Sufferings

C. S. Lewis, best known as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, was also one of the most profound thinkers of twentieth century Christianity.  Along with J. R. R. Tolkien, he has inspired millions of people, include all of the authors at Lantern Hollow Press.  On Sundays we would like to take a moment to offer up a little Lewis for your consideration.

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We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, “Blessed are they that mourn,” and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.

A Grief Observed

In A Grief Observed, Lewis wrestled with the implications of the death of his wife, Joy.  It was the first time that much of what he had been speaking about philosophically came home to him in a literal way.  He found in that terrible moment, as we all do, that pain and grief are one thing in the abstract and quite another when experienced.  The very best philosophy at that moment will seem nothing more than mere moonshine (though it may still be objective correct simultaneously).  This is a realization to which much of the western church–the American version in particular–is being rudely awakened.

America has been a nominally Christian nation* since its founding era.  As far back as the beginnings of its individual colonies, it was a haven from persecution.  We most often think of the Pilgrim Separatists of Plymouth, but there were many, many other sorts of believers that fled here to escape persecution, real and imagined, including Baptists, Anabapists, Moravians, Quakers, and Catholics.  They created a society were religious differences would be tolerated, including deism and atheism.

Since that time, America has been slowly redefined into a bastion of secular humanism, a peculiar kind of belief that, while claiming no god in particular in practice worships natural law and humanity as its chief expression.  Like the other religions it claims to critique, secular humanism can tolerate no meaningful dissent in public, and therefore we have seen Christianity’s special place in America regularly rolled back in favor of this new faith through movements that have redefined such classic ideas as the separation of church and state.  As that has happened, we have seen accompanying howls of outrage and indignation from politically active Christians who often have had trouble distinguishing their patriotism from their faith.

To this, I believe Lewis would say, “So what?”  As he noted above, we are promised sufferings and persecutions.  Anyone who signed you up for the Christian faith with the understanding that you would be guaranteed a happy, successful life free from frustration and grief is as bad a historian as they are a friend.  The reality is that the state of affairs that existed in the United States for its first 200 years is the exception, not the rule. Indeed, when things go back to “normal,” we will “have gotten nothing that [we] hadn’t bargained for.”

Of course, that is very easy to say.  The real rub will come the first time I personally have to confront what that actually means–in my life, for my family, and for my loved ones.  I can only pray I bear it well when it does.

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*By “Christian nation” I mean a nation that was founded largely (but not wholly) as an outgrowth of philosophical presuppositions native to the Christian faith and meant to govern a population that largely agreed with that faith.  I do not mean, as many secularists do in such conversations, that it was a theocracy.  It was not and has never been anything of that sort, and to point that out is not particularly noteworthy.

Click here for the entire run of “Meditations with C. S. Lewis” so far.  Interested in more about C. S. Lewis?  Check out Passing Through the Shadowlands–an extended project where I am blogging through his life in letters, essays, and books.

Meditations with C. S. Lewis: What Love Can Do

C. S. Lewis, best known as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, was also one of the most profound thinkers of twentieth century Christianity.  Along with J. R. R. Tolkien, he has inspired millions of people, include all of the authors at Lantern Hollow Press.  On Sundays we would like to take a moment to offer up a little Lewis for your consideration.

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For this is one of the miracles of love; it gives — to both, but perhaps especially to the woman — a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.

A Grief Observed

Love–in its truest sense–is not something that obscures our view of reality.  Instead, it sharpens it.  Through real love, according to Lewis, we see the one we love with crystal clarity…and we decide that we will love them anyway.

To Lewis, as to any really wise person, love is much more than a cascade of fuzzy emotion directed at what amounts to an idol.  It is something that really transcends both the lover and the object of his/her affection.  To use another of Lewis’s famous quotes, “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.”  It is a decision to which we choose to adhere far more than it is mere feeling. We want the best for someone we love, even in the times we may not like them very much.

Most of the modern world defines “love” no more deeply than the flurry of emotion that accompanies infatuation.  Unfortunately, this does not last and eventually we see through the idealized fantasy version of the person that we have “fallen for” and realize who they really are (who we all are)–a broken, imperfect creature with a tendency towards selfishness and failure.  In that moment, if we define love on terms as shallow as infatuation, our “love” for them ceases.  We become “disenchanted.”

Shortly after we quit “loving” them, we begin to feel that we need not be obligated to them either.  We go in search of a new “love” who will excite in us the same feelings the first one did.  Relationships fall apart, marriages end in bitter divorce, and children are often the innocent victims.  Society as a whole then suffers as a result of a misunderstanding by the sum of its parts.

The cycle is vicious and predictable. It also can be broken with a simple, infinitely difficult step:  We make the decision to practice real love with those to whom we have offered the word in lip-service for far too long.

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Click here for the entire run of “Meditations with C. S. Lewis” so far.  Interested in more about C. S. Lewis?  Check out Passing Through the Shadowlands–an extended project where I am blogging through his life in letters, essays, and books.

Meditations with C. S. Lewis: The Power of a Name

C. S. Lewis, best known as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, was also one of the most profound thinkers of twentieth century Christianity.  Along with J. R. R. Tolkien, he has inspired millions of people, include all of the authors at Lantern Hollow Press.  On Sundays we would like to take a moment to offer up a little Lewis for your consideration.

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“Peace, Beaver,” said Aslan.  All names will soon be restored to their proper owners.  In the meantime we will not dispute about noises.”

–The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

Names are powerful things, even though we may not often think of them as so.  Most cultures take them very seriously, and this is often reflected in literature.  We need only think of Hermionie Granger’s admonition to Lucius Malfoy that “fear of a name only increases the fear of the thing itself,” to see it.  While I don’t know that Lewis was thinking along these lines in particular, I find Aslan’s statement to be almost prophetic.

Christians believe that names matter.  God has promised this Himself:

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden mana, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who recieves it.

–Revelation 2:17

A True Name, directly from God, that only He knows.  That is a gift indeed.

Of course, in the short run, not all names are going to be with their proper owners.  People who should be held in esteem and spoken of in terms of honor and grace are regarded with disdain and subjected to names so vile that I won’t repeat them here.  Others who should be ashamed of what they’ve done are held up as the finest examples of humanity and showered with praise.  There is something in us that cringes at both extremes.  We get angry when we see this kind of injustice, though at times we may not even realize why.

The good news is that God sees through to the very heart of things, and He is the ultimate Namer of whom we are but a poor imitation.  One day, as Aslan promised Beaver, all names will be restored to their proper owners.  In the meantime, we “need not dispute about noises” and let what others think of us weigh too heavily on on our minds.  We should take curses and praises both with the proverbial grain of salt.

Remember, the One who really matters sees us as we truly are.  His name is waiting for us.

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Click here for the entire run of “Meditations with C. S. Lewis” so far.  Interested in more about C. S. Lewis?  Check out Passing Through the Shadowlands–an extended project where I am blogging through his life in letters, essays, and books.