What I'm Reading

17 November 2008

I recently finished reading C.S. Lewis's Surprised by Joy, the account of his lifelong pursuit of that which he calls Joy and how the Divine Mercy at last intrudes into his heart. The first several chapters lull us into reading it as an autobiography flavored with the matter-of-fact candor of Saint Augustine, for Lewis, too, uses past experiences as the hard frame around which he molds the more important examination of his belief (and disbelief) in the divine, the examination which prevails over biographical details by the conclusion. In contrast to Augustine's lilting spree into metaphor and prayer, however, Lewis paces himself by the scholar's beat. His sometimes endearing recount of his boyhood play-land of Boxen, his voracious appetite for mythology, his childhood friend's encouragement to appreciate the "Homely," retains the underlying rigor of the scholar's singleness of purpose, to write how Joy pointed the way to his Savior. Joy, he writes,

was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer. While that other was in doubt, the pointer naturally loomed large in my thoughts. When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter. He who first sees it cries, 'Look!' The whole party gathers round and stares. But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare. They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that set them up. But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road, though their pillars are of silver and their lettering of gold (130 of this edition).

Surprised by Joy is a rather short book at fifteen chapters holding titles like "The First Years," "Renaissance," "The Great Knock," "Guns and Good Company," and "Checkmate"; but it proffers Lewis's testimony to how the "great Angler played His fish" (116). The experiences, the philosophies, the friends He placed around Lewis ultimately caught hold of the athiest and pulled him into the Kingdom.

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