Some time ago I began to collect some of my favorite quotes by C.S. Lewis. It seemed an appropriate task in light of my current studies on beauty in the works of Lewis. And so I thought I'd begin a series in which I share those quotes while also providing some little bit of context. Thus, "Lewis in Context." Get out the ticker tape and rejoice, another blog series to attend!
One of Lewis’s most quoted passages, and for obvious reasons. Lewis here, however, is working out a thoughtful reaction to a passage in St. Augustine’s Confessions. Augustine, who had just lost a dear friend writes: "Though left alone, he loses none dear to him; for all are dear in the one who cannot be lost.” (Confessions, Book IV; xiv)
Lewis paraphrases Augustine like this: “Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose." Lewis, however, replies that to love at all is to hurt, to lose, to experience pain. The alternative is to turn to stone.
Lewis, unlike Augustine, does not discourage inordinate human love, but is simply making a comment about the smallness of our love for God. “It is the smallness of our love for God, not the greatness of our love for the man, that constitutes the inordinacy.” (p.122)
In other words, According to Lewis, we should love, and love hard. If you don’t love, your heart will turn to stone, metaphorically of course. Reality shows us this. Augustine, in his grief, contemplated keeping his heart safe, but Lewis suggests this to be the wrong response.
He doesn't necessarily give Augustine much comfort but, perhaps, adjusts his view. The hurt does not come from loving man too much, but rather from not loving God enough. I wonder how many of us could really take this view to heart when dealing with real life pain? Would our pain lessen if we took our eyes off of ourselves? That is essentially what Lewis is suggesting.
The hurt from interpersonal pain or loss tends to fall upon our own hearts, and the sting causes us to rethink how much of ourselves we give to others. Self-preservation kicks in.
Lewis, however, says get out there and love; love with everything you have. But don't just love others with this kind of abandon, love God in this way too. The, perhaps, we'll see what happens to our pain in light of God's love for us and ours for him.
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Timothy Willard is the author of five books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life and the forthcoming The Life-Giving Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019). He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.