Note: I published a different version of this post a few weeks ago, but I didn’t really like that version. I rewrote it and hopefully you will enjoy this one!
It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a 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.~ C.S. Lewis
Most people have heard of C.S. Lewis, or at least have heard of his famous children’s book series, The Chronicles of Narnia, but many do not know that he wrote over 50 non-fiction books about theology or that he used the money that he earned from those books to care for others who needed it. I hope that I will someday be able to live my life the way that he lived his, obeying God even when he did not want to or it seemed difficult to.
Lewis, or Jack, as he liked to be called, was an atheist for most of his youth, but even before he became a Christian he always felt that he should do the right thing. For example, when World War I started, Jack was about to go to Oxford College, but he felt like he should not be studying while other men were dying on the battlefield, so he postponed going to Oxford and after training joined the fighting in France. While he was fighting he met Edward “Paddy” Moore, who quickly became Jack’s closest friend. Moore and Jack made a promise to each other that if one of them died during the war the other one would take care of their family. Moore did die, and Jack kept his promise to him by caring for Moore’s mother, Janie, and sister for as long as they needed him to. Jack, his brother Warren, Janie, and Paddy’s sister Maureen later moved into a large house called the “Kilns”.
After Jack graduated from Oxford, he began teaching there, and soon became with another professor there, J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien was a devout Roman Catholic, and under his influence Jack began to reconsider Christianity. In 1931 Jack finally became a Christian and began to write books on theology.
Janie Moore was a firm atheist, so she was not very elated when Jack told her that he was a Christian, and when Jack’s brother Warren (whom she positively despised) also became a Christian she became so irritable that Jack began to think that she had gone insane. Jack was still patient with her, because he felt that it was a Christian responsibility. Janie did not change, though, and so that she would have something to do other than argue with Warren (which she did almost constantly), she would find simple tasks for Jack to execute, and would give him these tasks even while he was writing. She was once so irritable and Jack was so stressed that he collapsed (literally) in his room and almost died. He recovered, and still continued to care for Janie until she died.
World War II began in 1949, and Jack decided to let some children come to stay at his country home so that they could get away from the blitz. He later dedicated the first of his Narnia series, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, to one of these girls. He also began to publish a set of (fiction) satirical letters in the newspapers which were later published as a book under the name The Screwtape Letters, in which a demon writes to his nephew advice on how to trick his “patient” (a human) into sinning.
After The Screwtape Letters appeared in the newspaper, Jack was invited by a radio station to come and talk on the radio about Christianity. Though Jack hated the thought of becoming famous or even the very thought of being on the radio, he understood that on the radio he could reach the men who were about to die in the war. His first talks, titled “Right and Wrong” were aired in 1942, and many more followed for the rest of Jack’s life. All of his talks were eventually published as a book called Mere Christianity. I have heard several stories of soldiers who accepted Christ soon after hearing Jack’s talks on the radio.
One of the things that I most admire C.S. Lewis for is the way that he cared for other people and put their needs before his own. One of the best examples of this is the way that he helped an American named Joy Gresham. Joy was married when she started writing to Jack in 1949, asking for advice. Her husband, Bill, even though they had two children already, divorced her after falling in love with another woman. Bill, said that he would still support her, but Joy knew that he would soon forget about her, so she wrote to Jack telling him of her problem. Jack responded to her by doing something very generous. He began to pay for her needs with the money he earned from his books.
Joy, so that she could be nearer to Jack in case of an emergency, moved with her children to England. In order to become an actual citizen of England, though, she had to marry an Englishman. Since Jack was not married, Joy asked him if he would be all right with becoming legally married to her, but not actually with them living as husband and wife. Jack was fine with it and wanted to help her, so they were married in 1956. They did not think that it was right for them to live together, since they had been married through the church. They continued to live as they had before, until Joy almost died from cancer. Jack realized then that he did love Joy, and they were married again. Joy died a few years later, and Jack continued to take care of her sons until his death in 1963, on the same day as JFK’s assassination.
I suppose that the thing that I admire C.S. Lewis most for is how he was willing to give up his own preferences and needs so that he could do God’s will. His life has inspired me to do the same, and I hope that I will do the same throughout my own life.
“There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him.” ~ C.S. Lewis (The Great Divorce)