If you could actually thank C. S. Lewis…

By

…wouldn’t you want to?

I certainly would.

He may have died long before I was born, but his books came to me like letters from a kind and witty and child-hearted godfather. Narnia companioned my childhood. Cair Paravel became a home within my thought that I roamed in imagination. The Pevensies were comrades in my play and challenged me to bravery. Talking stars and valorous mice and dryads peopled my dreams. When my siblings and I rigged up the oak tree in our front yard and called it a ship, it was the Dawn Treader I considered myself to be sailing. And it was Aslan’s country I desired to find.

Ah, Aslan. Bold and beautiful, never tame. Who can fathom the power of a story in which Christ bounds in, unfettered by the usual assumptions and in a form so wondrous and wild? I loved Aslan. And even as a little girl, I knew it was God I was learning to love through him.

When I grew up and began to wrestle with the reality of that God, again Lewis (and the old picture of Aslan) came to my rescue. I have read letters that Lewis wrote to his actual godson, and the kindly, bracing advice, the take-yourself-lightly tone and the urge to throw one’s whole self into the loving of God were familiar to me. I had already encountered that eminently insightful voice in Lewis’s spiritual and apologetic works. Like the kindly godfather he was, he walked me through doubt, assuaged my frustration; his words pulled me back from the brink of disbelief. And the stories that came from that vivid imagination of his taught me to hope that every longing of my heart would one day find its home.

So yes, if Lewis were anywhere on earth, I’d trek my way to him, shake his hand, and say the thanks that’s been years in the making. I can’t wait to do it in heaven. But I can make a down payment on that thanks right now. And I simply have to tell all of you about this rather momentous opportunity. I know this is a place where C.S. Lewis is greatly loved, so… perhaps you’d like to join me?

C.S. Lewis is about to get a memorial in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey. This is immensely exciting. I’ve written about Westminster before, and the impact its many heroes had upon my heart. For Lewis to be honored there is to add him to that great company, to affirm his works of creation, imagination, and instruction as something heroic. It means that thousands of people will encounter him when they visit, remember his works, or maybe discover them (and Aslan) for the first time. But it’s a project that needs support. You can visit the website to read this invitation:

On 22nd November 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of C.S. Lewis’s death, Westminster Abbey will be unveiling a memorial stone to Lewis in Poets’ Corner. A two-day conference and a thanksgiving service will be part of the memorial project. The Dean of Westminster has kindly given his permission for this memorial, but the Abbey itself does not finance such projects, and so we invite your support. If you have valued Lewis’s writings and personal example and would like to contribute, please give generously. The total cost will be about £20,000. A list of donors’ names will be deposited among the papers of the Oxford Lewis Society in the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

I intend to accept the invitation and I decided to share it with you. I thought a few of you might feel about Lewis as I do. Perhaps you’d love to be part of honoring his legacy, affirming his influence upon the spiritual imaginations of countless people.  After all, he taught us to live our own stories awfully well.

So, you can visit the official website here: Lewis in Poets Corner.

You can donate to the memorial here.

And just for the fun of it, you can also leave me a comment with some of your favorite Lewisian quotes. I’ll start:

“I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?” – C.S. Lewis in Till We Have Faces

 

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Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey

Sarah Clarkson is the author of several books including the best-selling The Life-giving Home, which she co-authored with her mother, Sally Clarkson. Sarah is currently studying literature at Oxford University where she’s not only a brilliant thinker and writer, but is also the president of the C. S. Lewis Society.


17 Comments

  1. JamaRowena

    From The Silver Chair:

    “Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.
    “I am dying of thirst,” said Jill.
    “Then drink,” said the Lion.
    “May I — could I — would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.
    The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.
    The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
    “Will you promise not to — do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.
    “I make no promise,” said the Lion.
    Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
    “Do you eat girls?” she said.
    “I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
    “I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.
    “Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
    “Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
    “There is no other stream,” said the Lion.

  2. Chuck Harris

    Oh, I love me some CS Lewis.

    “And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

    “Make your choice, adventurous Stranger;
    Strike the bell and bide the danger
    Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
    What would have followed if you had.”

    “Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
    At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
    When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death
    And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”

  3. Zach Ames

    I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this. Come further up, come further in!

  4. Brenda Branson

    “By writing the things I write, you see, one especially qualifies for being hereafter condemned out of one’s own mouth. Think of me as a fellow-patient in the same hospital who, having been admitted a little earlier, could give some advice.”

    (Letter from Lewis to Sheldon Vanauken in “A Severe Mercy”)

  5. Sarah

    Oh, I’m planning on extending your invitation over at Aslan’s Library, because Lewis has been so central to how we think about explicitly theological kids’ books!

    A few passages that are guideposts for us (all from An Experiment in Criticism):

    No poem will give up its secret to a reader who enters it regarding the poet as a potential deceiver, and determined to not be taken in. We must risk being taken in, if we are to get anything. The best safeguard against bad literature is a full experience of the good; just as a real and affectionate acquaintance with honest people gives a better protection against rogues than a habitual distrust of everyone.

    Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realise the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors…my own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented. Even the eyes of all humanity are not enough. I regret that the brutes cannot write books. Very gladly I would learn what face things present to a mouse or a bee; more gladly still would I perceive the olfactory world charged with all the information and emotion it carries for a dog.

  6. David

    When the purport of the images — what they say to our fear and hope and will and affections — seems to conflict with the theological abstractions, trust the purport of the images every time. For our abstract thinking is itself a tissue of analogies: a continual modelling of spiritual reality in legal or chemical or mechanical terms. Are these likely to be more adequate than the sensuous, organic, and personal images of scripture — light and darkness, river and well, seed and harvest, master and servant, hen and chickens, father and child? The footprints of the Divine are more visible in that rich soil than across rocks or slag-heaps. Hence what they call ‘de-mythologising’ Christianity can easily be re-mythologising it — and substituting a poorer mythology for a richer.

    Letters to Malcolm 54-55.

  7. Andrew Peterson

    @andrew

    Thank you, Sarah. This is fitting, and exciting. We’ll be in London this summer, and I’m so sad to miss the event! But that won’t stop me from contributing something, if the British exchange rate leaves anything extra when we get back this summer.

  8. Elizabeth of the Kirk in the Woods

    The first of many that came to mind: “One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one more thing to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things-trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.” (Lewis, The Silver Chair)

  9. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    The influence of C.S. Lewis on my life is incalculable. In the Narnia books at 8 years old I encountered the Gospel in a way I could best understand it, and saw the beauty of love and strength and sacrifice in Aslan, the childlike faith of Lucy, the growing nobility of Peter and Edmund, the honor and courage of Reepicheep, Caspian’s care for the old things. I saw the ugliness of evil and selfishness in Jadis, in Uncle Andrew, in Miraz, in Rabadash, in the Ape. I saw the dreadfulness of betrayal in Edmund, and redemption, how people can be very bad and broken by it, and yet, through love and the sacrifice of Jesus, they can be made good and whole again.

    In Narnia I was handed a set of images, a good solid start for understanding my own life. I have been Rilian, under enchantment. I have had that enchantment broken by my true friends, and I have smashed the Silver Chair to bits with the sword of the Spirit. I have been Lucy, childlike in faith, and I have been Edmund, childish in self-getting. I have been Digory, tempted by the Witch about what a single silver apple could do, and I have been (very occasionally) sensible Polly. I have been Puzzle, a dupe for the aims of others, and, apart from Aslan, I could do nothing but serve Tash.

    These images started me. Later, there were more. I have reread The Screwtape Letters, and listened to the John Cleese version, and now the Andy Serkis version, more times than I could count. I have seen myself at various times in various parts of the book.

    One of the most powerful was Till We Have Faces. I saw myself in Orual, with her great finished book in her hands to read before the gods, as I read my little scrawled one-page complaint. And like Orual, I was answered by the silence.

    Lewis led me to MacDonald. MacDonald disturbed me. I saw a reality there I did not have. Through Lewis and MacDonald I recognized God’s voice, that golden thread, in Norman Grubb and others.

    I am entirely in debt to C.S. Lewis.

  10. applehillcottage

    “The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.” — Mere Christianity

    Oh, I read the Narnia books to my kids and we loved them, but I wasn’t a believer then. So it is to Mere Christianity that I owe my debt. It was that writing that brought me to Christ. God put the book on the floor in front of me one morning as I opened the library where I worked. As I bent to pick it up, I thought, “Yes, I should read that.” I’m now re-reading the Narnia series as a believer for the second time — (just finished The Silver Chair.) and yes, I am absolutely indebted to him.

    Thank you for this post.

  11. Thea

    Beautiful post! Here is one of my (many) favorite quotes, from Prince Caspian:

    “Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
    “That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
    “Not because you are?”
    “I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

  12. Veronica

    I just discovered the Rabbit Room via a C.S. Lewis page share; what a wonderful page! I’ll be sure to bookmark yours individually, too!

    “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” – C.S. Lewis

    Mere Christianity changed my life. I work at a bookstore and I push it to anyone who asks for a book recommendation.

  13. Allison

    What a precious and encouraging collection of quotes and stories inspired by a “mere Christian” whom God has used to draw others unto Himself.

    I entered Narnia for the first time as a seven or eight-year-old and have continually returned to the Chronicles for comfort, refreshment, peace, and encouragement, even as an adult. Outside of the Bible itself, there is no other person or work that has so powerfully shaped my understanding of God and myself:

    “…though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.” The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

    I have been teaching English for 3 years at an inner-city middle school. My philosophy of teaching is expressed by these two quotes:

    “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.” The Abolition of Man

    “Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.” On Three Ways of Writing for Children

  14. Heidi

    Lewis has certainly had a powerful impact on my life. I lived pretty close to Narnia throughout childhood. As I reached young adulthood, Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity came along to help me grapple with truths of the Christian life. I may not have started reading George MacDonald if I didn’t know of his profound influence on Lewis.
    I love reading all these quotes that everyone is sharing!

    I shared this quote of his with a friend yesterday,
    “The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.”

  15. Adam Bennett

    “Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”
    ― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

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