Surprised By Joy

I just finished the book Surprised By Joy: The Shape of My Early Life, by C.S. Lewis.  I’ve been chewing on that thing for a month now.  So you have a better idea of what it’s about, the tag line on the back cover is “The intensely intimate and sincere autobiography of a man who thought his way to God.”  

I’ve pretty much been beating myself up over how long it’s taken me to finish this book, but now that I think about it, I don’t really care that much.  Because I HAVE been super busy, you know, like moving to another country and adjusting and preparing for the DTS and all that.  But even more than that, this book is just not a quick read.  It’s not chick lit, friends.  I could read one page and then digest it for the rest of the day.  I would get irritated if I started reading and realized I didn’t have a pen with me…these pages are marked up for all they’re worth.

I could write a post every day for a year with quotes I’ve underlined in this book.  Don’t worry, I won’t.  Well, maybe not.  But I do whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone who loves C.S. Lewis, or reading, or philosophy, or…I don’t know.  Just give it a try.  

Lewis admits that as a teenager, his tutor wrote of him to his father, “You may make a writer or a scholar of him, but you’ll not make anything else.  You may make up your mind to that.”  And it turned out to be true.  Reading this book humbled me beyond belief in both areas: if I ever fancied myself a writer, I now see my best work as pathetic scribbles compared to Lewis’ brilliant exposition and imagery.  If I ever thought myself scholarly or intellectual, I now perceive my highest, sharpest thinking to be the ponderings of a smarter-than-average monkey.  Sigh.  His philosophical and literary allusions are phrased in such a way that one feels he sees them as common sense,  which made me feel so…behind intellectually, and made me long for a scholar’s life where I can just think and read and discuss and write.  But I do believe I have some other skills that may lead me down more than just a writer’s or scholar’s path.

The most amazing part of the book is realizing how uniquely God pursues us with His love.  It is my belief that no one can stand before God at the end of His life and say, “You did not pursue me with your love.”  (I got that from Francis Chan).  But everyone is pursued so differently.  C.S. Lewis found signposts pointing to God through literature, from the time he was a small child to when he was teaching philosophy at university.  His journey toward God, culminating in conversion, is marked by what he was reading at the time and consequently (as he got older) which brand of philosophy he was subscribing to.

Here is a fantastic quote from the end of the book, in which Lewis records his thoughts on his conversion to Theism (not, you will note, Christianity…yet):

“[I was] perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.  I did not see then what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms.  The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet.  But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape?”

Well, check out Surprised By Joy and let me know what you think!

P.S. I love you.

Hee…just watched that movie.  Couldn’t help myself.


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