Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Sign, or Two, or Three

Today, on a bit of a whim, I decided to go book shopping. It was rainy outside, I had little to do, and books make me happy (BOOM- justified!). I always like to look at the "religion" section at my local Barnes & Noble just to see if there are ever any relevant books on Orthodoxy. Unfortunately, as time goes on I find there are less and less books pertaining to The Faith, and more and more books dedicated to any particular quasi-faith that someone decides to dream up. I was equal parts amused and horrified by a book entitled "Where Has Oprah Taken Us: The Religious Influence of the World's Most Famous Woman". I mean, in what world does that merit an existence, let alone a spot on a shelf right next to The Bible?...... How sad.

This is a joke, right?

Anyways, after some perusing I decided to return to my favorite spot in the religion section. I'm a bit of an enthusiast of C.S. Lewis' writings, both as a contemporary Christian apologist, and as lyrical genius. Although I have read many of his books, there was one title in particular that caught my eye. I felt compelled to buy it.... and so I did. I really think it was something that I was meant to read in this moment of my life.

"A Grief Observed" was written by C.S. Lewis after the loss of his beloved wife. You see, Lewis so loved his wife, he married her despite the fact that she was terminally ill with cancer. He so loved his wife, her death nearly took him away from the Faith that he spent his life studying and defending. The book is profound and full of pathos, and Lewis has the uncanny ability to take his grief and examine the rationale behind his thoughts. His doubt of the benevolence of God, is eventually turned around into defending the true nature of God; A good God who loves all mankind. His arguments come naturally to himself as he works out his grief on paper. What was most compelling to me as a reader was the sense that Lewis came to his conclusions because of his grief and not despite his grief. It made him seem so human, and it made his arguments for the loving nature of God all the more valid.

C.S. Lewis and wife,  Joy Davidman
I, of course, have not suffered a loss like that of C.S. Lewis. However, there were parts of this book that made me relate to the inner-plight that Lewis suffered. There are several excerpts of this book that spoke to me, and I was stuck at how elegantly Lewis is able to explain how your own mind can be your own worst enemy. It can be the one thing that magnifies your worries, and in doing so, takes your thoughts away from God...

“I once read the sentence 'I lay awake all night with a toothache, thinking about the toothache an about lying awake.' That's true to life. Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer."

 Furthermore, Lewis is able to explain that we are not tested by God to see how faithful we are. God is not a cruel sadist who tries to push us until we break. On the contrary, He challenges us to make us realize how strong our faith is. It's only in these realizations that we can grow. 

“God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn't. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.” 

 Most notably, Lewis made me realize that it is my own inner-panic that may be keeping me from hearing what God wants to tell me. I can't really tell you what it meant to read this and realize that  desperate implorations and constant mental churnings are a possible (and probable) hindrance to any sort of progression within my own life. It is self-actualizing and somewhat shameful at the same time...

“The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just that time when God can't give it: you are like the drowning man who can't be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.” 
On top of everything else, today I saw two more things that really made me think that God was trying to tell me something. One was a Facebook post from a Priest that read...

"Focusing on yourself will never reveal your purpose. You were made by God and for God, and until you understand that, life will never make sense. Only in God do we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance, and our destiny."- Dr. Rick Warren. 

The other thing was a marquee in front of a Church that simply said "The only thing keeping you from happiness is your ego." I couldn't help but laugh at how true that one was. 

So I suppose if I pray for God to guide me, I better be prepared to accept whatever He has to say.............

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