lessons from Mr. Lewis

Just finished Surprised by Joy, an autobiography of C.S. Lewis' early life describing his journey through atheism to Christianity. Had I not read most of it poolside, I would've had google close at hand. I'm sure I would've gotten a lot more out of it if I could have looked up all the allusions, references and name-dropping.

lesson one. I will not indulge in futile philippics against enemies I never met in battle.
After an entire chapter spent illuminating the intimate relations between the bloods (the socially superior usually due to athletic prowess) and tarts (a "pretty and effeminate small boy") at his all-boys prep school, he writes, "Here's a fellow, you say, who used to come before us as a moral and religious writer, and now, if you please, he's written a whole chapter describing his old school as a very furnace of impure loves without one world on the heinousness of the sin." Lewis gives two reasons for his judgment-free narrative. I don't remember the first reason, but the second is stated above. In a recent conversation, the topic turned to how we support a traditional definition of the family, support initiatives like Prop 8 in California or Prop 102 in Arizona and others, follow the counsel of the Prophet, not condone a lifestyle that goes against gospel principles AND remain Christlike in our approach. My thoughts: The gospel of Jesus Christ is inclusive and people are not the problem. I don't love a lot of cliches, not even this one, but I like the message: "love the sinner, hate the sin." After all, are we not all beggars? This doesn't just go for issues of "moral purity"--I love this new-to-me word, philippics--in the words of Salt 'n Peppa, There's only one true judge in this world and that's God. So chill, and let my Father do His job. I'm SO glad that's not my job. Yes, I get to choose who I associate with and what I allow into my inner circle, but people will always be welcome.

lesson two. I insisted that he ought to appear in the temple I had built him; not knowing that he cares only for temples building and not at all for temples built. This is deep, huh? Each reader deserves to come to their own conclusion of what it means for them. So, I'll let Mr. Lewis do the talking: ...compare the error which I was making with that error which the angel at the Sepulchre rebuked when he said to the women, "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, He is risen." Okay fine...my thoughts: Why do we limit God, put Him and His power in a box saying that "the Atonement cannot cover me" or "my parents" or "my sibling" or "my friend" or "my ex-whatever" ??? What does He care about? That we are growing. God does not grade of a curve, my friends.

lesson three. Joy is not a substitute for sex; sex is very often a substitute for Joy. I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are not substitutes for Joy. I apologize for the use of the "s-word" but I really like Lewis' point here. Earlier he writes, One thing, however, I learned, which has since saved me from many popular confusions of mind. I came to know by experience that it is not a disguise of sexual desire. The whole point of this book, I believe, is to teach that one cannot produce Joy, real Joy is a gift and it comes from God. It cannot be harnessed or forced. He says it is an error to falsely make a state of mind your aim, to attempt to produce it. He also said that once he tasted Joy, to get it again became my constant endeavor; while reading every poem, hearing every piece of music, going for every walk, I stood anxious sentinel at my own mind to watch whether the blessed moment was beginning and endeavor to retain it if it did. Because I was still young and the whole world of beauty was opening before me.... But far more often I frightened it away by my greedy impatience to snare it, and, even when it came, instantly destroyed it by introspection, and at all time vulgarized it by my false assumption about its nature. Isn't that what Satan does? I heard recently that the Greek definition for the word for sin means missing the mark. I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are a substitute for desire. The quick fix. Who wants to wait for real Joy when you can get a fleeting and vain substitute in a make-out or shopping splurge or red-bull???

lesson four. the kicker. But what, in conclusion, of Joy? ...to tell you the truth, the subject has nearly lost all interest to me since I became a Christian....It was a valuable pointer to something other and outer....When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter....But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare. The Lord teaches using contrast, I think for a couple reasons: it's a powerful tool and it keeps us on our toes. We take for granted that Joy is not something we can capture, it is something that we are surprised by. This reminds me of a talk that I love given by Henry B. Eyring:

"...you have felt a tug, maybe many tugs, to be someone better. And what sets those yearnings apart from all your daydreams is that they were not about being richer, or smarter, or more attractive, but about being better. I am sure you have had such moments, not just from my experience.... Listen very carefully:

Man is a spiritual being, a soul, and at some period of his life everyone is possessed with an irresistible desire to know his relationship to the Infinite. . . . There is something within him which urges him to rise above himself, to control his environment, to master the body and all things physical and live in a higher and more beautiful world [David O. McKay].

That pull upward is far beyond what you would call a desire for self-improvement. When I felt it, I knew I was being urged to live so far above myself that I could never do it on my own. President McKay had it right. You feel an urging to rise above your natural self. What you have felt is an urging from your Heavenly Father to accept this invitation:

O, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot [Moroni 10:32­33].

That urge to rise above yourself is a recognition of your need for the Atonement to work in your life, and your need to be sure that it is working. After all you can do, after all your effort, you need confidence that the Atonement is working for you and on you."

I didn't mean for this to turn into a sermon. It's just that when I end up writing in the margins and inside covers of a book, I just like to share some of those thoughts. I hope that you who parts of this may hit with any particular force will also remember that the great adversary is very good at breaking down our confidence and convincing us that Joy is no longer within our reach. Lies. Lies. Lies.

When I remember my inner life I see that everything I mentioned...was merely a coarse curtain which at any moment might be drawn aside to reveal all the heavens I then knew.

Thank you for your candor Mr. Lewis. Sorry this is so long.

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