This still remains one of my favorite pictures of him.
If you've been on this blog for any length of time, you are quite aware that C. S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors. Last night, I asked myself why this was the case.
I was made aware of Lewis long before I can even remember, truth be told. My parents used to read to us before bed every night. Or at least, a few times a week. Among other books, The Chronicles of Narnia were read frequently. When my father read, he occasionally gave British accents to some of the characters. Badly, but still. It was the thought that counted. I also grew up with that horribly low-budget fantastic BBC rendering of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I watched those VHS tapes to death, though, low budget or not. To this day, I'm sure I know the whole thing by heart.
In his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, Lewis describes what it was like growing up in his New House. The house was noisy but full of empty rooms. And also, he seems to add with joy, books.
I am a product… of endless books. My father bought all the books he read and never got rid of any of them. There were books in the study, books in the drawing room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder…,books of all kinds…nothing was forbidden me.I fell in love with this attitude toward books. I think I can also blame my obsession with books on Lewis. Though the number of my books do not compare to his or his parents, my house is also rather full of books. This is probably one of the few things Jack and I actually have in common.
We grew up differently; his mother died when he was young, he had a difficult relationship with his father, he was sent away to schools and communicated with his family and friends through letters. I, on the other hand, am blessed to have both my parents, live semi-close to most of my immediate family, and have the technology to be able to pick up the phone and talk with friends who live hours and states away.
To highlight even more differences, Jack was a devout atheist for at least 30 years of his life. I grew up in a home where Christ was loved, believed in and demonstrated in every day life, and I had decided to follow the same path for myself. But do you know what his journey to Christianity and Christ tells me? It is okay to have doubts, it is okay to question. But when the questions stop, make sure you listen. You will be asked to make a choice. (Though I would imagine Jack would say you have no choice when the truth is so plain. When it came down to it, he called himself "the most reluctant convert in all England.")
In all of these differences, though, I find a kinship with this man. Maybe it is in the way he so simply talks about faith and belief. His ability to read the Bible and draw out a truth from it that is necessary in every day life always makes me stop and listen. While he calls out sin he also reminds us of the very personal relationship God wants to have with us. I think I never feel so loved by Christ as when I watch Aslan sacrifice himself for Edmund or read Lewis when he says things like "When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you'd been the only man in the world."
I suppose one of the things I really love about Lewis is that he taught me that it is okay to read fairy tales as an adult. No, that it is important to read fairy tales even as an adult. I was so eager to grow up as a child that I know I skipped many children's books in exchange for Gone with the Wind. I don't regret those choices. In fact, I am sure that because of them I am able to appreciate fairy tales and children's stories more as an adult. Instead of seeing the jerk of a selfish troublemaker in Edmund, I see myself. I see the bad choices, but I also see the possibility of redemption. Instead of just seeing a person who has lost faith in the stories of old in Trumpkin, I see myself. I see how easy it is to lose faith when you feel abandoned, but also how faith can be restored when you allow yourself to be taught and led by those with more faith than you currently posses. Instead of seeing a bossy, friendless, pain in the neck whiner in Eustace, I see myself. Stay with me here! While yes, he is all of those things, and how!, he doesn't stay that way after his encounter with The Lion. I, too, am capable and find myself trying to live life in my own strength. It is only when I cry out that I cannot do it on my own and ask for help can the scales of pride and selfishness come off.
I love that even after years of careful study and reading for pleasure, I still find joy in opening a book by or about C. S. Lewis. I love the way his speech changes from academic to common and back again, all without losing the reader or the point.
I have much more to say about this great man and I'm sure that I shall do so in the future, but for tonight, this is where I will leave it.
I will always be thankful to God for creating such a man, to Jack for sharing his gifts and talents with the world and for those in my life with whom I can talk to about everything Lewis.