"Compassion is your pain in my heart"
Saturday, November 23, 2013
He died on the same day as JFK, so when the world remembers Kennedy, I often remember Lewis. Here's something I wrote previously about how Lewis -- a man I love -- changed my life forever:
Lewis, in A Grief Observed:
Aren't all these notes the senseless writhings of a man who won't accept the fact that there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it? Who still thinks there is some device (if only he could find it) which will make pain not to be pain. It doesn't really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist's chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on.
And grief still feels like fear. Perhaps, more strictly, like suspense. Or like waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen. It gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn't seem worth starting anything. I can't settle down. I yawn, I fidget, I smoke too much. Up till this I always had too little time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness.
C.S. Lewis is like a beloved friend of mine. Through all of my adult life he's been a source of wonder and encouragement to me, because he's a cerebral dreamer who could write a masterpiece for a child (The Chronicles of Narnia) as seemingly easily as he could write the most profound and weighty theological treatise (e.g. The Problem of Pain) and everything in between (e.g. The Screwtape Letters).
I remember being on my bed as a 17-year-old boy, reading the final paragraphs of Mere Christianity:
Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life.
Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. but look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.
Those words pierced me. I was a snotty-nosed kid, dumbfounded by the words of a dead British man. I still had many years of duplicity ahead of me -- stormy waters to glide over before truly submitting to death. But I knew the way, and Lewis had shown it to me.
And now as a 37-year-old man, his words mean even more. So when he talks about pain and suffering, I listen. He is my master, and I am his pupil.