Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Books Like Whoa: The Warm Embrace of Jack Lewis

So it's my birthday. On my birthday, I try to cram the day full of things and people that I like best. And when it comes to books, there is nothing I like better than C.S. Lewis.

When I am feeling weary, and I want to rest in the surety of my faith, I rarely turn to the Bible. Maybe that's bad - surely it is. I turn to the Bible when I want to feel the love of God or to remember the depth of my condition or to rejoice in the hope of the kingdom.

But when I feel run down and like I don't know which way is up or down, I turn to C.S. Lewis. Probably because I loved Jack Lewis before I loved the Bible or God. I don't love him better, now that I can see that what I loved in him was God. But I loved him first. He was the first path that made me see what neither my conservative fundamentalist schooling nor my liberal mainline churching had shown me: that to love God was the most reasonable and difficult thing that would ever be demanded of me, and that I must rise to meet that demand.

He isn't perfect or anything. There are things that I have always questioned in him and now that I've had some theological training, there are areas I have better questions about. Yet he combines two things that I long so deeply to embody myself: a razor sharp mind alongside a truly humble heart. As he was deep in the midst of debates and writing his theological works, when he was still getting calls in the wake of his Time cover, he was also functionally a sick nurse, caring for an old woman with a decaying mind and an alcoholic brother. He collapsed from exhaustion. Yet in his recovery, he began to write the Narnia books. It is this life of self-giving love to his family, friends, and the world that call out from behind his words.

So many of his sentences are nearly perfect. Good sentences are clear. Great sentences couple clarity with beauty. As a writer, his sentences kindle envy and admiration in equal measures within me - you feel palpably that this is a man who loves words and revels in arranging them in their proper place.

Jack has something for me, no matter how I feel or where I'm at in my life...

When I want to smile, I read The Screwtape Letters.

When I need someone to hurt with me, I read A Grief Observed.

When I seek to grow in my relationships, I read The Four Loves.

When I forget why I ever got myself in this complicated mess of belief, I read Mere Christianity.

When I long for wisdom, I read The Great Divorce.

When I need to believe again, I read The Chronicles of Narnia.

When I'm looking for someone to share both in life's little nothings and momentous moments, I read his letters.

When I'm trying to remember what makes literature important, I read An Experiment in Criticism or On Stories or Of Other Worlds or The Discarded Image.

When I want to stand in awe of creation and its maker, I read The Weight of Glory.

And when I want to rest and lean into the literary embrace of the man who midwifed me into the faith, I read Letters to Malcolm.

C.S. Lewis is my "security blanket" author. Who is yours?

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