Sunday, September 5, 2010

What I'm reading: Surprised By Joy

Few people influenced the world with the written word like CS Lewis in the 20th century. His style, his imagination, his wit, and his depth of writing were captivating for millions of Christians who still recommend Mere Christianity to anyone interested in the core of the Christian faith; or for weightier matters there are amazing works like The Weight of Glory. On the fiction side, many people sadly do not know that The Chronicles of Narnia were written by Lewis with a provocatively Christian message woven within the elaborate storyline. And I should confess now that I only read one of the books in the series as a child (I still haven't gotten into reading fiction... maybe one day when I grow up).

But for all of his incredible writing and the global popularity which he still has even 40 years after his death, it wasn't until recently that I read his own personal autobiography, Surprised By Joy. In it Lewis describes primarily the first 20 year of his life - the schools he went to and what he thought of them, the relationship he had with his father and brother, and some key relationships along the way. It is filled with all of Lewis' elaborate descriptions and Irish (yes, Irish... he lived most his life in Britain but was born in Ireland) humor. Some of it, to be honest, goes either over my head or just is lost on me altogether. But I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the book, particularly the last third as he speeds up the process how he came to faith in Christ. It's an incredibly honest appraisal of faith - from denying the generic religion he grew up with in his family, to rejecting any idea of God on the basis of reason or science, to ultimately realizing his arguments had gaping holes, life was without meaning if there was no God, and only Christianity can legitimately account for some of the deepest questions humans wrestle with.

The main point I want to make here, however, is the number of relationships Lewis had with Christians before becoming a Christian. Every school he went to from his teenage years onward had at least one or two people who were Christians - people who Lewis wrote off immediately for the most part, but eventually people who he respected. These were thinking people, reasonable people in his mind, who believed in the supernatural, had a faith in Christ which did not remind him of the stuffy religion he remembered as a child, and seemed to love Lewis though he rejected (for a time) their "superstition". And, most importantly to me, they knew their faith and talked about it.

Just about everyone I know had at least several friends or family members who were Christians before they became Christians. Sure, some people have the testimony of "a friend took me to church and I became a Christian the first night I went", and that's an excellent story. Most people, however, are more prone to go to church because they were invited, be interested, ask questions (often big, difficult-to-answer questions), feel a sense of the presence of God in their lives and the truth of the Gospel message, and then trust Christ as Savior. But, the key in almost every story is relationships. And that's what I want to be about in my evangelism. Relationships and conversations. Not just friendships where we get together, enjoy good food and drink, and go home (not every time at least). But the kind where we really get to know each other. The kind where I ask questions of what they believe in, what matters most to them, what they think about God, and so on. I want to be winsome in my ability to direct a conversation towards Jesus. I feel like Lewis was that way. Man, I wish I could have met the guy.

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