Monday, November 15, 2010

C. S. Lewis on death and life

I, like C. S. Lewis, did not start my life with a robust sense of the afterlife. So, when I became a Christian a college--and even many years thereafter--this key question loomed (and still does at times): What do I do when I stand before my own death? And what do I really hold to when someone dies whom I truly love? Lewis grappled profoundly with that question when his wife, Helen Joy Davidman, died. (Need I add that it's a question we all will face.) You can see the poem Lewis wrote in response on his wife's tombstone.

While on a post-college celebratory vacation to France, I can remember reading Lewis’s insights about the afterlife from Reflections on the Psalms, that knocked me off my metaphorical feet. He pointed out human beings are not made for time, but instead, for eternal life. And I remember several years later in 1997--when I had to preach my first Easter sermon and sought to somehow make our hope for another, better life something real and vital for the congregation--I turned to Lewis to help me demonstrate where our recurrent human experience resonates resurrection. Here's that passage:
We are so little reconciled to time that we are even astonished at it. “How he’s grown!” we exclaim, “How time flies!” as though the universal form of our experience were again and again a novelty. It is as strange as if a fish were repeatedly surprised at the wetness of water. And that would be strange indeed; unless of course the fish were destined to become, one day, a land animal.
That passage is transcendent for me. Through it, I feel the reason and importance for the afterlife. But does it work for you? I'm curious....