Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Severe Mercy

There are bothersome things that come with finishing a good book, they are a bother to me at least. For one, there is a strong desire to re-experience the story all over again right away. Unfortunately, it's a difficult task considering the medium. There's a want so strong to get to the end of the book to find out what conclusions will be made, but at the end of a good story, you want nothing more than to go backwards, and never quite finish the book after all. There's also the sudden heavy weight of knowing that you are responsible for acting upon this newly gained knowledge. A good book affects you, it stirs within you passions once fiery and dreams once touchable. So then lies the question of what sort of doing must now be done.

I just finished reading this memoir by Sheldon Vanauken and have so many thoughts spinning that it's as if they are not really spinning, but are rather at a stand still. Frozen, and unable to separate. I will attempt to attack them gently with a pickaxe.

*The previous text was written a week earlier than the following:

I ought to have set aside all distraction and explored my thoughts more immediately, rather than waiting a week. I fear some of those thoughts will now stay hidden away for another day. Hopefully to arise as a pleasant surprise on some idle Tuesday.

In the final chapter of the book, Vanauken quotes C.S. Lewis,
'if a man diligently followed this desire [for joy], pursuing the false objects until their falsity appeared and then resolutely abandoning them, he must come out at last into the clear knowledge that the human soul was made to enjoy some object that is never fully given - nay, cannot even be imagined as given - in our present mode of subjective and spatio-temporal experience.'
Huh? Lewis refers to the deepest longing of the human soul. The way your heart seems to long for something far beyond reach, yet we search and search for it. What we are seeking is joy, and we will chase after whatever it is that we believe we will find it in. Whether that be in painting, in sailing, in motherhood, in sports, or some other endeavor that we find ourselves enamored with. It is in the failing to find that highest of all joys that we must come to realize it is in something so much bigger than we could ever begin to fathom. We cannot deny that we all long for this joy.

Thus, we can only conclude that we were made to enjoy this something that so lures our souls. What we are seeking is God. Though we may not recognize it, he is the ultimate satisfaction that our heart aches to taste. Vanauken claims this idea as the heart of his and C.S. Lewis' writings.

Vanuaken's tale is one that journeys through his and his wife's quest for this joy and how they discover Christ. He is beautifully honest with his words and takes the time to tell the whole story. During the years the book is set, the author meets and corresponds with C.S. Lewis, asking him tough questions about Christianity at first, and continuing on as dear friends, praying for one another, as the years pass.

I will end now, for I feel I cannot ever capture all that this book speaks. What I've shared is only a tiny portion of this filling meal that leaves it's reader ready for dessert. Enjoy!


  1. Um, if you decide to re-read it, maybe you should get your own copy. Or ask for it for your bday. I'm just thinking it took you 4 months to finish it... and I'd sorta like it back before Thanksgiving :) I might want to re-read it myself (after LOTR, of course)

    Isn't it good?!?! What a story.... so much to think about. I can't wait to read more of your review!