“His master replied, ‘Well done good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things: I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.”
Matthew 25: 21 (New International Version)
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13 (New International Version)
“Who are you, C. S. Lewis?
“Who really are you Jack?”
If you are neither a C.S. Lewis scholar nor a fellow of the C. S. Lewis Institute but are fond of reading his books, like me, these two questions are good to ask about him.
I think I am beginning to know him more recently. This pandemic kept me quarantined for more than a year now. I had a wonderful opportunity to read more on Lewis and watched on YouTube documentaries about him and Lewis’ scholars review of his books. I am beginning to understand him and what is he really telling us about his many scholarly writings.
One of the most profound impacts of Lewis on my life was not the reading of his books, although it did influence me a lot. It was an anecdote told by his stepson, Douglas Gresham, who visited the Philippines in early or mid 2000s when he promoted the movie, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, that was being shown in Philippine theaters. He was invited by the Union Church of Manila to talk about the movie and of course Lewis. The venue was within walking distance from our office and his talk was scheduled after office hours so I made time to attend. There was a Q and A session towards the end of his talk. One of the questions asked of him was, “What is your most memorable experience of Lewis when you were a young teen living under his care?” His answer was short but profound. I actually jotted it down on a piece of paper and inserted it in the book I brought with me when I attended that talk. He said, “what I remember most about Jack (how Douglas addressed him as his step father) was that towards the last days of his moving on to the next life (“Narnia” in Lewis’ world – this is just my idea and not the term Douglas used!) he became closer and closer to Jesus”.
Going back to my reading up on Lewis, I am reading the book, “The Essential C.S. Lewis”, a compilation of Lewis’ work that was edited by Lyle W. Dorsett. I am now in the Introduction part and just this morning I read this one sentence about Lewis.
“He saw himself as God’s steward and felt responsible for the careful expenditure and distribution of everything the Heavenly Father provided”.
It is no wonder then that his writings were mostly about love or charity or generosity. Through his writings he is actually telling us his own story and inviting us into his own world of imagination and wonder and yes, magic!
In The Horse and His Boy, one of the seven books in The Chronicles of Narnia, there was a conversation between Aslan and Shasta, one of the characters in that story, that goes, “Child, I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own”.
Yes, C.S. Lewis is telling us his story. The story he is telling us is but a part of the one true Story he knows, imagines and believes. That is why if he were alive today and you had a chance to talk to him, he will ask you this question, “Which story are you in?”
How would you answer Lewis’ question, “Which story are you in?” And maybe the follow up question like, “How are you living your story?” needs to be addressed too.
“What is your story?” can be similar to the master’s asking his workers or stewards for an accounting of the talents he entrusted to them in Jesus’ popular but very profound parable of the talents. How you answer this question will determine the master’s response?
Are you the five or two talent person who got the accolade of the master, “Well done good and faithful servant!…Enter the master’s happiness.” A good love story!
Or are you the one talent person who got the ire of the master, “You wicked lazy servant!” He was eventually thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is not a good story at all. I don’t want to be in this story!
I mentioned that this Jesus’ parable is popular but very profound. Why? Firstly, one may ask. Isn’t it too harsh for the master to call the one talent person wicked lazy servant and then eventually threw him to that horrible place of darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth? After all the one talent person did not squander his talent but hid it. Right? What is so wrong with that?
Well the problem with the one talent person is the issue of obedience and lack of faith or belief in his master. He really never knew his master.
Let’s look at the story again in the gospel of Matthew and a similar account by Luke. In Luke’s account Jesus was a guest in Zaccheus’ house which place was near Jerusalem. He sensed that the people there were thinking that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once, so he began to tell them a parable this way, “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’ (Luke 19: 12) It was clear that the instruction to the servant was to put to work what the master gave them while he was away and until he comes back. The five and two talent person obeyed while the one talent person did not.
Secondly, the one talent person did not really know his master by the excuse he gave to the master. This is the one talent person’s own words in Matthew’s account of this story, ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ (Matthew 25: 24 – 25)
We know that our master and Lord Jesus is never near that kind of description by the one talent person as a hard man. King David in his psalms that were inspired by his actual experience of God pictures him more accurately. In Psalm 8 he proclaims how majestic is the Lord’s name who has set his glory above the heavens and in the 23rd psalm he describes the Lord as our good shepherd who makes us lie down in green pastures. This is the God we know and believe. Jesus of the gospels who is full of grace and truth is the revelation of the God we worship and serve.
Lewis’ genius and imagination closely portrayed David’s Lord in his psalms and the God revealed in person by Jesus through Aslan, the lion and the central character of his “The Chronicles of Narnia” series. If you have read the Narnia Chronicles or watched their movie version, you know what I meant.
Having read this story now, you may want to explore for yourself and find the answers to these questions:
“Who are you C. S. Lewis?
“Who really are you Jack?”
You can do that by reading his books. A good way to start getting to know Jack is by reading one of his all time best-selling classics, Mere Christianity. A reading plan to complete all the seven books in his The Chronicles of Narnia should be your next stop. Or if you want to take a short cut, you can Google his books to find some free audio version of his books.
Happy reading or Googling of C. S. Lewis. Either way will be a real adventure as you get into the world and imagination of C.S. Lewis. You may find the experience magical too!
Let me ask you again, “What is your story?” and as C. S. Lewis would have asked you too, “Which story are you in?”