Sunday, April 17, 2005

Spiritual voice (1): from C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity

[C.S. Lewis is remembered as one of the most important Christian thinkers and writers of the twentieth century. In the early 1940's he delivered talks on various Christian theological topics on British radio. These talks were later compiled to form a book entitiled "Mere Christianity." Many people including yours truly point to this book as an essential part of their faith journey. To show his popularity and the soundness of his insights, I point out that more than 30 years after Lewis' death, sales of this book are still strong and Lewis remains a widely-read author and writer.]

The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self--all your wishes and precautions--to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call "ourselves," to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be "good." We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way--centered on money or pleasure or ambition--and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly.

And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and re-sown.

That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that over voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.

We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system: because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us. It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through.

He never talked vague, idealistic gas. When He said, "Be perfect," He meant it. He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder--in fact, it is impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.

[Questions to think about:

*C.S. Lewis talks about the need to give all areas of our lives to God. What do you find most difficult about giving all to God?

*Think how you would react and repond if Jesus were to come up to you today and say: "Give me all of yourself. I don't want...."

* The pursuit of personal happiness by being morally good, says Lewis, ends in frustration. Why do you think he said that? What could be his reasoning behind it? Do you agree or disagree? ]

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