Reading Lewis always awakens in me a sense of awe at the beauty and other-ness of God. Scanning through what Lewis regarded as the favorite of all his works, Till We Have Faces, I came across these paragraphs describing the coming of god to judge the main character, Orual. Lewis’s brilliance in writing these kinds of narratives always makes reality feel more real.
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The voices spoke again; but not loud this time. They were awed and trembled. “He is coming,” they said. “The god is coming into his house. The god comes to judge Orual.”
If Pysche had not held me by the hand I should have sunk down. She had brought me now to the very edge of the pool. The air was growing brighter and brighter about us; as if something had set it on fire. Each breath I drew let into me new terror, joy, overpowering sweetness. I was pierced through and through with the arrows of it. I was being unmade. I was no one. But that’s little to say; rather, Psyche herself was, in a manner, no one. I loved her as I would once have thought it impossible to love, would have died any death for her. And yet, it was not, not now, she that really counted. Or if she counted (and oh, gloriously she did) it was for another’s sake. The earth and stars and sun, all that was or will be, existed for his sake. And he was coming. The most dreadful, the most beautiful, the only dread and beauty there is, was coming. The pillars on the far side of the pool flushed with his approach. I cast down my eyes.
“A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere.”
— C.S. Lewis
Listen to this amazing story of how the Hound of Heaven tracked down another rebel sinner and brought her to Himself.
You’d be amazed how many times something as unlikely as that has happened, always beginning with the Word being preached. There is an account of a woman on her deathbed. She described how she was saved by reading a crumpled, ragged piece of wrapping paper in a package shipped from Australia. Someone had used the printed text of a sermon by Charles H. Spurgeon to wrap a package for shipment. The sermon was preached in England, printed in America, shipped to Australia, then sent back to England as wrapping paper, where the woman read it and encountered Jesus Christ. The Word traveled thousands of miles on the cheapest, most crumpled and smeared newsprint. But the truth shone brilliantly through the simplest of media, and God’s Word did not return void.
David Jeremiah, Living With Confidence in a Chaotic World, pg. 149
Humour is for them the all-consoling and (mark this) the all-excusing, grace of life. Hence it is invaluable as a means of destroying shame. If a man simply lets others pay for him, he is “mean”; if he boasts of it in a jocular manner and twits his fellows with having been scored off, he is no longer “mean” but a comical fellow. Mere cowardice is shameful; cowardice boasted of with humorous exaggerations and grotesque gestures can passed off as funny. Cruelty is shameful—unless the cruel man can represent it as a practical joke. A thousand bawdy, or even blasphemous, jokes do not help towards a man’s damnation so much as his discovery that almost anything he wants to do can be done, not only without the disapproval but with the admiration of his fellows, if only it can get itself treated as a Joke.
C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters
Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!”
— Proverbs 26:18-19
C.S. Lewis agrees with me (see previous post):
The word gentleman originally meant something recognisable; one who had a coat of arms and some landed property. When you called someone “a gentleman” you were not paying him a compliment, but merely stating a fact. If you said he was not “a gentleman” you were not insulting him, but giving information. There was no contradiction in saying that John was a liar and a gentleman; any more than there now is in saying that James is a fool and an M.A. But then there came people who said – so rightly, charitably, spiritually, sensitively, so anything but usefully – “Ah but surely the important thing about a gentleman is not the coat of arms and the land, but the behaviour? Surely he is the true gentleman who behaves as a gentleman should? Surely in that sense Edward is far more truly a gentleman than John?” They meant well. To be honourable and courteous and brave is of course a far better thing than to have a coat of arms. But it is not the same thing. Worse still, it is not a thing everyone will agree about. To call a man “a gentleman” in this new, refined sense, becomes, in fact, not a way of giving information about him, but a way of praising him: to deny that he is “a gentleman” becomes simply a way of insulting him. When a word ceases to be a term of description and becomes merely a term of praise, it no longer tells you facts about the object: it only tells you about the speaker’s attitude to that object. (A ‘nice’ meal only means a meal the speaker likes.) A gentleman, once it has been spiritualised and refined out of its old coarse, objective sense, means hardly more than a man whom the speaker likes. As a result, gentleman is now a useless word. We had lots of terms of approval already, so it was not needed for that use; on the other hand if anyone (say, in a historical work) wants to use it in its old sense, he cannot do so without explanations. It has been spoiled for that purpose.
Ashley and I saw The Voyage of the Dawn Treader last night. Despite some deviations from the book, it was great. More than anything, I love being captured by the wonder of Narnia, the glory of Aslan, and the greater meta-story that’s going on. Our world is more like Narnia than we think, we just don’t notice it, like poor Eustace.
I love the last paragraph of the last chapter of the Chronicles of Narnia:
And as [Aslan] spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
I think C.S. Lewis is one of the most quotable people I’ve ever read. And after listen to part of John Piper’s sermon it made me want to put down two of his quotes that I really liked. Enjoy.
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world.
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, for they are not the thing itself– they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of the tune we have not heard, the news from a country her have never yet visited.
Lewis calls this feeling the inconsolable longing. It’s real, and it’s there. And beauty brings it to the surface.