Posted by: ritagone | January 19, 2011

C.S. Lewis

Who doesn’t love C.S. Lewis, both him as a person if you know anything at all about him personally and what he has written, both fiction and non-fiction?

Over the past 50 years, since his death (coincidentally on the same day as J.F.K.’s assassination on November 22, 1963), his popularity and influence among both Christians and non-Christians alike has increased and spread around the world.

I just finished reading an amazing biography by one of my newest favorite authors, Alan Jacobs, called “The Narnian: the Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis.”  I now feel I know Mr. Lewis – may I call you Jack? – better than I ever did before, which makes my beloved Narnia books (if I were stranded on a desert island, these are the books I would take with me…) even more precious to me along with all of his other wonderful and often challenging writings. I have always maintained that had I not already been a believer when I read “Mere Christianity” many years ago, Lewis would have convinced me to become one.  And that’s a pretty substantial praise for any author these days!

One of the more interesting facts Jacobs points out about Lewis is that throughout his scholarly teaching life at both Oxford first and then Cambridge he was known to answer almost every letter that came to him.  This is significant, since, as his fame and literary presence grew, so did his correspondence; back then, in the “dark ages” fifty years ago, in a time of actual paper writing rather than twitters and emails, this says something.  I know that Lewis probably did write to everyone, even if it was merely a one sentence answer because I have hanging on my hall wall a signed note from him dated June 16, 1950, to a Mr. Litchfield, with a brief message: “Thanks for your note.  No, I haven’t read Ouspensky.  With best wishes, yours sincerely,” signed C.S. Lewis.  The note is typed; the signature is ink, handwritten.  It is framed with a picture of “Jack” Lewis sitting at a window staring out into a stark bit of winter woodland.  It is one of my most prized autographs on a wall that also displays autographs of Wordsworth, Tennyson, Charles Dickens and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (just for fun, with absolutely no literary merit).

But I digress.

One of the most amazing true stories in the book about C.S. Lewis happened shortly after his marriage to Joy Davidman Gresham, her second marriage, his first.  Too soon after their wedding, she took a fall and broke her femur, and it was then discovered that her body was riddled with cancer.  She was brought home to his place, which he shared with his bachelor brother Warnie – called the Kilns – to die.  But she did not die.  People prayed for her healing, including Jack, who also prayed fervently that her sufferings would be transferred to him, and something amazing began to happen: her bones began to heal and Lewis’s began to weaken.  It wasn’t cancer that he contracted; it was severe osteoporosis, which began to riddle his bones and reduce his system to old age while Joy’s cancer seemed to go into remission, as if Lewis’s plea to take on her suffering had been heard and answered.

Eventually, of course, in July of 1960, Joy Davidman Lewis died when her cancer came back strongly and quickly, but not before she and Jack were able to take their dream vacation to Ireland and Greece and London.

What Jack Lewis lived out was the Christian principle of living fully in another’s life, to weep with those who weep and bear another’s burden, “dying each other’s life, living each other’s death,” as he wrote so beautifully.

As I read this book, I became aware of how far short I fall of even tasting this kind of selfless love and support of others.  I can visit the sick, pray for them, sympathize with their pain and suffering, but it’s not something I have ever experienced: the ability to take on what they are feeling and to give them my health in exchange for their sickness, in the way that Jesus took on my sin and gave me instead His wholeness.  Or even to be willing to do so.

My prayer today is that God would allow me the opportunity to see what that’s like.  I ask it with great hesitancy because I’m afraid of what and who it might involve.  But there’s a part of me – admittedly a very small part right now – that yearns to know how this would feel, because it is something that is so like Jesus, something so foreign to the way I am today, that to experience it is to experience God and His holiness in a totally new way.

So thanks again, C.S. “Jack” Lewis, via Alan Jacobs, for another lesson learned, about how to live like Jesus lived.

How are you doing in this arena of your life?  Maybe today we – you and I —  can be better about it.  Or tomorrow.

Regards, Rita

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