My first introduction to C.S. Lewis was, like many people’s, the Chronicles of Narnia, when I was 9 or so. I loved the historical aspect of children in WWII (I’ve always been a bit of a history nerd), I loved that there was an escape from the everyday that led them to this fantastical world. And as a regular churchgoer, I even got and appreciated the elements of religious allegory. At least, the ones in the first book.
In my later high school years, I encountered Mere Christianity. I’m not sure that I got all the way through it in high school, but I made a good start of it, and got through it eventually. It’s great. Very relatable and understandable. My faith was very emotionally grounded. Lewis helped me to think through it, and to involve my intellect in a more reasonable and helpful way. He opened me up to do more study and thinking about faith.
I read Shadowlands, about Lewis’s late-in-life marriage to an American woman. It moved me and changed some things about how I thought about love and what I thought romantic love was for.
I think my next encounter with Lewis was probably in the wake of my father’s death. Our culture is so grief-averse that, even though I had gone through a wrenching death of a good friend when I was in high school, and had lost most of my grandparents, and even though he’d been terminally ill for 30 months and I’d been in therapy, I was wholly unequipped to deal with my father’s death. I couldn’t process what I was feeling. I couldn’t relate to what other people said about grief and grieving, until I, for some reason, turned to Lewis.
Lewis wrote two really powerful books about grief: The Problem of Pain and A Grief Observed. He wrote The Problem of Pain first, and it’s more abstract, theoretical, and theological in nature. But it’s helpful. More along the lines of “why does God allow suffering,” but interesting. But A Grief Observed was written in the wake of losing his wife. It was wrenching. More along the lines of “how can I reconcile my belief in a good God with the unimaginable pain I’m feeling?” and “what’s the point if something like this can happen?”
It was such a relief to see someone I respected in the same kind of pain that I was feeling. When he found hope, he helped me to know that there was a way to pull through it.
Now, I’m finally reading The Screwtape Letters. I’ve owned the book for a time that I’m able to measure in decades, and someone I respect held a discussion on it last week. I started it in time for the discussion, but I didn’t finish it in time. But I’m finishing it now. It’s got Lewis’s practicality and humor, and trademark spiritual insight. I’m really enjoying it, and I’m learning a lot that I want to process and hold onto.
I’m also enjoying the feeling of finally getting around to something that I’ve put off so long. It’s a satisfying enough feeling that I’m tempted to make some kind of grand resolution, like “every month, I’m going to finish something I started” or “read something I always meant to read” or something noble sounding.
But for now, I think I’ll just finish this one and get what I can from it.