For most of my young adulthood, my bedtime prayers always began thus:
Thank you God for my wonderful husband, a loving family, great friends, and C. S. Lewis.
To this day, Lewis has had more influence on my spiritual life than any other person. Without question, he’s the most influential person I’ve never met. (In fact, he was dead before my parents were even born.)
When I struggle with doubts about God’s goodness or even his existence, Lewis is among the first people I turn to. In fact, the argument that usually wins me back over is, “But Lewis believed in Him. He has to be real . . . and good.”
I can’t explain my deep, enduring attachment to this dead Irish Oxford don.
I once noted in my journal that any time I seemed to have a visionary moment — to connect with the Divine on some level — Lewis invariably appeared in those visions somehow. He wasn’t the source, but was always somehow present, sort of like a guardian spirit or genius. I wondered whether it were possible for humans to be related on a spiritual level — to have kinship ties to other souls, kind of like how earthly brothers and sisters share DNA . . . except their connection isn’t biological. I wondered whether, in the next life, Lewis would recognize me as his sister the way I seemed to recognize him as a spiritual brother. We just seemed to understand each other, like we’d come from the same place somehow — we intuitively understood the same language. I hoped he would.
I was first introduced to Lewis when I was in the fifth grade, when our class read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I was completely taken with Narnia, and excitedly sought out the rest of the chronicles from the school library. I remember discovering all seven hard-cover books in a row on the shelf and the ensuing exhilaration. I was completely unaware of the religious themes in the stories — I was just smitten with the land and the characters.
I began reading his other work when I was in university — at a time when I really needed spiritual support. After being blown away by The Great Divorce, I began reading everything else I could get my hands on — from Mere Christianity to the Space Trilogy, Till We Have Faces, and even his letters. My soul feasted upon his stunning imagery, quick wit, and breathtaking wisdom.
Everything Lewis wrote heaves with life. I have never encountered anything like it. It doesn’t matter the genre — fantasy novel, essay, sermon, lecture; for me, every word sparkles with freshness.
When I was in England for an academic conference several years ago, I made sure we spent a couple of days in Oxford to visit Magdalen College (where he was a fellow for thirty years), and to walk down Addison’s Walk, where Tolkein and Dyson talked to him about Christianity before his conversion.
We toured his home, The Kilns; we walked the grounds of his church; and saw his grave, where I surprised myself by bursting into tears. The Holy Spirit resided in this body, I thought. I felt it more palpably there, standing over the place where his body lay, than I ever had with anyone else.
While in London, we visited Westminster Abbey, lingering at Poet’s Corner, where so many of my heroes are buried or commemorated. I distinctly remember thinking, Lewis belongs here. He made an enormous contribution to English literature with his Narnia stories — he ought to be remembered amongst other literary giants like Wordsworth and Dickens.
I never thought I’d actually see the day when Lewis would be officially recognized at Westminster Abbey, but it has come. Today, on the 50th anniversary of his death, Westminster Abbey will be unveiling a memorial stone to Lewis in Poets’ Corner — joining the likes of Shakespeare, T. S. Eliot and Chaucer as writers buried or commemorated there.
Of course, I won’t be anywhere near the memorial service while it happens, and it’s even doubtful I’ll ever see the memorial stone in my lifetime. But my heart is glad that this beloved writer, thinker, and apologist is getting recognition for his incredible contributions to English literature.
I confess I haven’t read him much in the last couple of years. By now I’ve read all of his well-known works and much of his lesser-known stuff, as well as numerous biographies and books about his writing. (I read Alister McGrath’s brand-new biography, C. S. Lewis: A Life, earlier this year. It was wonderful.) I haven’t given him as much attention in the last few years as I have in earlier eras of my life.
But my affection hasn’t wavered. His books are old friends I haven’t visited in a while, but I know I’ll visit them again.
And I still thank God for the opportunity to have witnessed such beauty.
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Read more about Lewis’ popularity 50 years after his death: C. S. Lewis, 50 Years On by Greg Garrett (Huffington Post)
“It is, literally, the year of C. S. Lewis. Fifty years since his death, on Nov. 22, 1963 — yes, he died the same day as Kennedy and Aldous Huxley — he is more influential than ever.”
Any other Lewis fans out there? What’s your favourite book? Please share!
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