“When is this book going to get good?”
To be honest, I thought CS Lewis was more brilliant than this. “Am I going to get something that changes the way I think?”
Those were the thoughts running through my head as I read The Great Divorce by CS Lewis. I kept waiting to find something that would make the effort of reading the book worthwhile. And the more pages I read the more I began to wonder if I’d ever find anything.
It seemed like the more meaning I struggled to get out of the book, the less I actually found. But I wasn’t about to be disappointed. Because a few pages later I found myself shocked and a little bit shamed. You see The Great Divorce is a story of people who have died and now have one last chance to seek God. Yet we find almost all of them choosing to hold onto their old lives at the expense of building a relationship with God
Little did I realize that CS Lewis was describing my own condition.
But the more I read, the more I realized that over the last few months I’ve been looking at God more as work and less as my savior. As much as I love writing, as much as I love reading about him – when you do it full time, it can become work and not joy. No matter how pure something starts in this world, sin always has the chance to corrupt it.
It’s this theme we see time and again in The Great Divorce. One exchange involving the Ghost of a mother who had lost her son showed us just how far something pure (like love) can fall. She was furious that she couldn’t immediately see her son. And in her fury she couldn’t see that it was her own rage that separated them. Or as one Angel put it, ”You’re treating God as only a means to [your son]“.
How long have I been using God as a means to my writing? Do I spend more time writing because I love to write? Or because I love God?
Of course those are questions that apply to us all. Do we volunteer because we really want to serve? Or because we like how it looks on our resume? Do we help the homeless because we love like God? Or because we feel guilty? Do we tell people we don’t believe in God because we really think God doesn’t exist? Or because it’s easier than saying we love to sin?
When I first became a Christian I couldn’t get enough information about God. I read my Bible constantly, I surfed blogs, read books, listened to podcasts. Even my conversations with friend would turn to God. No matter how much I learned, I wanted to know more.
Somewhere along the way that enthusiasm started to fade, however.
I started to look at learning about God as “studying about God,” a subtle but important shift. I found myself being less excited and feeling more obligated. That’s not to say my passion disappeared. I still spend hours reading and learning about God, but I wasn’t bringing the same excitement to it all.
It’s that contrast that seemed so stark as I was reading The Great Divorce.
I don’t think I am special, unique, odd, or even unusual. We would all rather be kings in Hell than servants in Heaven. We are all like the Ghosts in The Great Divorce. It’s hard to let go of the things that we think make us who we are. And if we’re not careful, everything we love can be perverted and twisted into something evil. Just like the mother Ghost.
CS Lewis puts it this way, “every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they have to say about him.”
As you become familiar with the stories of each of the Ghosts you realize that we all have another chance. No matter what arguments we have, for or against God, we can always ask for another chance. There is never a moment that lacks hope. We just have to be willing to give up our throne in Hell.
That’s the cool thing about God. There’s always a chance to start over.