Reading Time: 3 minutes
While perusing our church’s library, I found a compilation of daily devotions by C. S. Lewis. Called A Year With C. S. Lewis (New York: HarperCollins, 2003), the book features snippets from some of Lewis’s most famous works, including Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, Miracles, and others. Also included at the bottom of some of the entries is a fact about Lewis’s life. For example, at the bottom of p. 87 on the devotion for 19 March, this phrase appears: “1956: The Last Battle (the final volume of The Chronicles of Narnia) is published by The Bodley Head, London.” It is an interesting way to both read some of Lewis’s most famous “quotable quotes” while also seeing a sort of time-line of his life.
I admire C. S. Lewis’s work so much, and felt I could use a healthy dose of his no-nonsense approach to God. With every paragraph I read, I have to pause, re-read it, and shake my head in astonishment. I cannot imagine having a mind like C. S. Lewis. He can break down intangible Christian theological concepts into simple, relatable ideas like no one else. Take the “mystical limpet” analogy (I know, I know, bear with me here). This is the idea that a limpet (a type of marine snail or mollusk) could never hope to understand or describe to another limpet what a man looks like. A limpet relates only to what a limpet can see and understand; so, to describe a man, a limpet must describe what a man is not. Lewis’s point is that we often run into the same problem as humans. We try to determine who, what, and how God is and are usually led astray by our limited viewpoint (a brilliant analogy to my “limpet-like” brain).
As I continued reading the devotions, I noticed some underlining, writing, and check marks doodled here and there. Someone else had read this book and wanted to highlight some of the memorable ideas; this was a donated book from someone’s personal library. Intrigued, I looked in the front cover, and noticed the name written in a bold hand: Audrey Sprenger, July ’06. I froze. I did not know Audrey that well, but I did know that she had had cancer, too. I decided to take it home take note of some of the other passages that had appealed to her. Two were particularly compelling.
The first is under the heading “Blurry Visions of God” from Mere Christianity (p. 16). The under-lining is Audrey’s.
“When you come to knowing God, the initiative lies on His side. If He does not show Himself, nothing you can do will enable you to find Him. And, in fact, He shows much more of Himself to some people than to others—not because He has favorites, but because it is impossible for Him to show Himself to a man whose whole mind and character are in the wrong condition. Just as sunlight, though it has no favourites, cannot be reflected in a dusty mirror as clearly as in a clean one.”
The idea here is being open and receptive, and to set oneself up for listening. This requires raising our antennae and waiting. It requires sitting down and quieting the voices, activities, and thoughts that are always vying for our attention. It is a “condition,” as Lewis says—a state of being. God won’t throw a ball at us if we aren’t ready to catch it.
The second passage is also from Mere Christianity, and appears on p. 29 in the devotions book. Again, the underlining is Audrey’s:
“A live body is not one that never gets hurt, but one that can to some extent repair itself. In the same way a Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble—because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time, enabling him to repeat (in some degree) the kind of voluntary death which Christ Himself carried out.”
This statement to me is a deep, bone-warming truth. It is the idea of a tiny spark of a “Christ-life” burning inside me that gives me strength to persevere. And, yes, sometimes, getting through a difficult time in life feels like a “voluntary death,” but one that we do because we must, and because we trust our source of energy will be further strengthened—and encouraged—by adversity.
Though I didn’t know Audrey that well, I do remember speaking to her daughter many times, especially when Audrey was in the last part of her illness. I feel that it was not happenstance that I found this book right when I needed it, and I want to believe that Audrey was re-reading it with me, pointing to the really good parts.
Psalm 139 [NIV, from Bible Hub]
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.