A Letter to My Brother-in-Law
‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you,’ promises our Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.
Dear Brother — Did you ever read the Chronicles of Narnia — which was, of course, written as a Christian story intentionally with Aslan representing the Christ figure. The author C.S. Lewis has offered many spiritual insights and is on my top 10 list of modern thinkers who have influenced my life. Not surprisingly, Lewis remains one of the most quoted authors on Twitter.
Lewis, in full Clive Staples Lewis, was born on November 29, 1898, in Belfast, Ireland [now in Northern Ireland] — he died November 22, 1963, in Oxford, Oxfordshire, England. He was a scholar at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities, novelist, and author of about 40 books, many of them on Christian apologetics, including my two favorites, The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity. His works of greatest lasting fame may be The Chronicles of Narnia, a series of seven children’s books that have become classics of fantasy literature.
Lewis had rejected Christianity in his early teens and lived as an atheist through his 20s. Lewis turned to theism in 1930 (see Surprised by Joy) and to Christianity in 1931, partly with the help of his close friend and devout Roman Catholic J.R.R. Tolkien.
As you continue along your spiritual journey, I thought it would be cool to share with you some of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes and share my thoughts under many of them for further reflection.
“There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him.” The Great Divorce (1945) —This is why our marriages failed :(
“Each day we are becoming a creature of splendid glory or one of unthinkable horror,” Mere Christianity (1952). — Let’s be glorious :)
“The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts.” The Abolition of Man (1943). — Let us not just sustain but regenerate.
“I sometimes wonder if all pleasures are not substitutes for joy.” Mere Christianity. — Luxury is just another drug numbing us from true joy.
“There are only two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.’” The Great Divorce (1945). — We have enough to deal with. Why take on the burden of trying to be God of our lives as well? It doesn’t work anyway.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable.” The Four Loves (1960). — All good in life requires some leap of faith.
“It’s so much easier to pray for a bore than to go and see one.” Letters to Malcolm (1964). — Ain’t that a truth we both especially appreciate ;)
“The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self — all your wishes and precautions — to Christ.” Mere Christianity. — The most challenging job in life.
“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.” Mere Christianity.
‘When we Christians behave badly or fail to behave well, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the outside world.’ Mere Christianity. — Certainly. Look at what the sex scandal has done to the Catholic Church.
“If a man thinks he is not conceited, he is very conceited indeed.” Mere Christianity.
“Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” God In The Dock (1970). — Another reason our marriages failed.
“We are mirrors whose brightness is wholly derived from the sun that shines upon us.” The Four Loves (1960).
“[Reality] is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect.” Mere Christianity.
“It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.” The Problem of Pain (1940). — This is why the meek shall truly inherit the earth.
“‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise.” Mere Christianity. — Yet another reason our marriages failed.
“Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth.” C.S. Lewis: An examined life (2007). — Another spin on ‘If you seek, you shall find.’
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” Essays on Forgiveness (1960)
“Forgiveness does not mean excusing.” Fern Seed and Elephants (1967). — An important destinction.
“Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness.” The Problem of Pain (1940). Tough love does work.
“This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.” The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952). — Our personal relationship with God, our Creator, is our most important one on earth. It is what guarantees us everlasting life.
“God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself because it is not there. There is no such thing.” Mere Christianity. — Let’s not find this out the hard way.
“We do not want merely to see beauty … We want something else which can hardly be put into words — to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” Transposition and Other Addresses (1949). — Our desire to seek beauty in everything we see is a special gift — let’s relish it.
“You may forget that you are at every moment totally dependent on God.” Mere Christianity. — Basically, the bottom line to a meaningful and joyful existence.
“Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar.” The Screwtape Letters (1942). — He also hides in the shadows and does not want to be seen.
“What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth. They share it.” The Four Loves. — More on why our marriages failed.
“The instrument through which you see God is your whole self. And if a man’s self is not kept clean and bright, his glimpse of God will be blurred.” Mere Christianity. — More demanding work.
“It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.” Reflections on the Psalms (1964). — You are beautiful brother. (see photo above).
“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.” The Problem of Pain (1940).
“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis (2006) — It is all about staying hopeful.
“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.” Is Theology Poetry (1945). Jordon Peterson’s primary thesis in his lecture series on the Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories.
“The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.” The Weight of Glory (1949) — And when it finally opens, we finally understand the meaning of joy.
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” The Problem of Pain. — You and me brother.
“The past is frozen and no longer flows, and the present is all lit up with eternal rays.” The Screwtape Letters, — All great spiritual traditions agree that the secret to living a good life starts in the present.
“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” Mere Christianity — “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you,’ St. Augustine, Confessions
“God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” Mere Christianity.
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” The Problem of Pain — This is why The Cross is the symbol of our faith.
“I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.” Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis — Something that modern psychology has thankfully learned from the Church.
“When Christ died, he died for you individually just as much as if you had been the only person in the world.” Mere Christianity.
“God has infinite attention to spare for each one of us. You are as much alone with him as if you were the only being he had ever created.” Mere Christianity. — That is why when a Saint looks you in the eyes, you feel you are the only other person on the planet.
“In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s, we do not accept them easily enough.” The Weight of Glory (1949)— ‘How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take out that splinter in your eye,” when you cannot see the great log in your own? Hypocrite! Take the log out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter in your brother’s eyes.’ Luke 6: 42.
“If God forgives us we must forgive ourselves otherwise it's like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than him.” — Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis. — “Jesus said to him, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22: 37–39.
“All these toys were never intended to possess my heart. My true good is in another world, and my only real treasure is Christ.” The Problem of Pain”(1940). — “Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moth and woodworm destroy them and thieves can break in and steal. But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor woodworm destroys them and thieves cannot break in and steal. For wherever your treasure is, there will your heart be too.” Matthew 6: 19–21.
“When we lose one blessing, another is often most unexpectedly given in its place.” Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C.S. Lewis (2008). ‘The trials that you have had to bear are no more than people normally have. You can trust God not to let you be tried beyond your strength, and with any trial, he will give you a way out of it and the strength to bear it.’ 1 Corinthians 10: 13.
“No good work is done anywhere without aid from the Father of Lights.” Reflections on the Psalms (1964). — To walk out of His will is to walk into nowhere.
“God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.” Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis. — Another great one to pray about for its greater meaning.
“Faith in Christ is the only thing to save you from despair.” The Joyful Christian (1977). — Our reward for humility.
“Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.” Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis. — More truth about living in the present.
“Someday, you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950).
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” Chicken Soup for the Soul (1993).
“It is not your business to succeed, but to do right; when you have done so, the rest lies with God.” Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C.S. Lewis (2008). — More hard work.
“Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods.” Mere Christianity. —Per the Church: ‘Logic is the science and art that directs the mind in the process of reasoning so as to enable it to attain clearness and validity. The aim of logic is to bring consistency to the way we arrange our ideas, mental images, and judgments.
“Now is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It won’t last forever. We must take it or leave it.” Mere Christianity. — Lewis remained a member of the Anglican Church. The Catholic Church teaches that a person has right up until the moment of physical death to profess their faith in God.
“Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” Mere Christianity.
“Free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.” Mere Christianity. — Erasmus reminds us, ‘In man the will is so upright and free that, apart from new grace, he could continue in innocence but, apart from the help of new grace, he could not attain the happiness of eternal life which the Lord Jesus promised to his followers.’ Luther and Erasmus: Free Will and Salvation (1524).
“When you are arguing against God you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all.” Mere Christianity.
“Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” Mere Christianity. — Nothing has changed, in fact, the more comfortable the world has become, the more desperate we act.
“Christianity, if false, is of no importance and, if true, is of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.” God In The Dock (1970).
“If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” God In The Dock.
“The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.” Mere Christianity.
‘I am trying to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” Christ either deceived mankind by conscious fraud by claiming he was the Christ and Savior prophesied in the Hebrew scriptures, or He was Himself deluded and self-deceived, or He was Divine. There is no getting out of this trilemma. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His merely being a great human teacher.’ Mere Christianity. — Jesus is Lord.
“If you’re thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you, you’re embarking on something, which will take the whole of you.” Mere Christianity — Amen my dear brother. I love you in His name.