C. S. Lewis is, in my opinion, one of the most eloquent Christian writers of recent times. The man had such a way with words, it is absolutely incredible. As a writer, he very much inspires me. I first became familiar with Lewis through the Chronicles of Narnia, and was pleasantly surprised when my father pointed out the Christian undertones in the story. Later, I read and loved The Screwtape Letters, and I have encountered many quotes from Lewis in my theology classes because he so neatly summarizes important concepts.
It saddens me that Lewis never became a Catholic. He got so many things so right, that it astounds me he did not complete the journey, so to speak, and dive deep enough to find the fullness of Truth. Some digging around online shows me that his main concerns were with Catholics’ devotion to Mary and the saints, and their following of the Pope and allegiance to the Magesterium’s guidance. While those things can seems scary at first to a non-Catholic, with proper study and meditation, one can find their basis in Christ and understand that they are intrinsically ordered to His will.
Regardless of his Anglican ways, Lewis has a really strong grasp on a lot of the concepts all Christians can share. The light of Truth still shines through his words. Here are seven of my favorite quotes by him, and what they mean to me.
1) My idea
I had never thought about it this way until I ran into this quote, but sometimes, we accidentally limit God. God is beyond our human understanding; He is infinitely greater and more wonderful than anything we can comprehend. Elizabeth Elliot said, “[i]f God were small enough to be understood, He wouldn’t be big enough to be God.” But that doesn’t stop us from trying to understand Him – and of course, we will always fall short. Sometimes, in our attempts to wrap our minds around God, we condense Him. We relegate Him to a certain role. We think He is definitely going to act a certain way, and we don’t give Him the opportunity to act autonomously because we have already decided for Him. This can be as simple as thinking “Oh, I’m not going to bother asking God for this thing, because I know He is going to say no.” While there are some safe bets as to what God will refuse, we also must remember that nothing is impossible for Him. With this quote, I am reminded not to put God into a box and think He can only be a certain way. I want to be devoted to who God really is, not who I imagine Him to be.
This quote reminds me of a form of tough love. It is never loving to know someone is in sin and darkness, and to leave them there to suffer without trying to bring them to the Truth. Truth can be painful, and a lot of times, we don’t want to make people uncomfortable. But sometimes, a challenge is necessary. Sometimes, we need someone to call us out on our problematic behavior so that we can grow and change and become better. It can be really tough to approach someone in that way because it’s risky; emotions may run high, and it may lead to rash decisions, such as even ending a friendship. But to love someone is to lead them to goodness and Truth. It can be scary, but if you can carefully and effectively do good for another person, then that may be how you are called to love them.
I love the humility that is the focus of this quote. Another quote that I hold dear is the notion that Willam J. Toms states, “Be careful how you live. You may be the only Bible some person ever reads.” That is something that I connect with very personally right now, because I go to a very secular college. I have run into many people who have never known a Catholic, and I do not take it lightly that I am their first impression of what it means to be a Catholic or a Christian in general. It is a beautiful form of ministry, and I feel blessed by God that I get to work for Him in this type of outreach. But this work is not about me. I’m not doing this for my own recognition. I want to use these opportunities to teach people about God, to bring them to His light. With this quote, it feels like C. S. Lewis is cheering me on.
4) The Answer
This is a great way to turn frustration on its head. It’s very easy when talking with God to get upset when we don’t receive the answers we want. Knowing that God is omniscient, it feels like such a strong denial, maybe even a betrayal, when He doesn’t wrap up information with a nice bow and hand us all the answers. But God knows better than we do; He knows when we need answers and when we need to keep wondering. I sometimes have to remind myself that God knows what He is doing, and I can trust in Him to take care of me. I need to remember that God can satisfy every desire of my heart, and He is infinitely more fulfilling, just in His own nature and self, than anything else.
I talked in my post about Bible verses for anxiety that I struggle with a sense of control over my life. I feel like I need to be preparing for everything in my whole life right now, and that if I am not working hard in every moment, then I will fall behind and fail. This is a beautiful reminder that God is in charge, that He is guiding my life and helping build me into the person I need to be. I need to remember to submit, to be still, and to allow Him to work in and through me. I can trust His efforts because they will always be greater than I.
Living in this world, we often get caught up in the physicality of our bodies. After all, they are the vehicles through which we navigate this existence. Our senses are our method of input. They are the framework through which we learn, so it is only natural for us to get wrapped up in them, and forget the importance of that which exists beyond them. But our souls are so vitally important to our selves. This is a reminder to fix our perspectives and view ourselves as the mystical creations God has created us to be.
It can be really hard to balance the needs of the self with the needs of others. How do you balance self-care without being selfish, and charity with personal goals? So often, we feel that we need to decrease our self-importance by trashing ourselves. We focus on our flaws, we talk more about what we do wrong than what we do right, and we argue with people who compliment us in an effort to seem like we aren’t prideful. But in a twisted way, that actually is a new form of pride. You are considering yourself so important that you are the constant target of slander, but you are still fixated on yourself. But this notion of thinking of yourself less frequently overall is a great way to explain humility. You don’t have to trash talk yourself to be humble; you can be aware of your own goodness and still decrease in pride.
I could talk about these little nuggets of wisdom for hours, because they are so poignant and apply to so many situations. I highlighted examples that jumped out at me right now, but these are so relateable that if I were to write this post again in a year, I probably could come up with entirely new things to write about that wouldn’t be any less fitting. I think these are great to return to every so often and apply in new and innovative ways over time.
Featured image from Ligonier Ministries