Recently, I’ve been thinking about the nature of reality. Not in a deep, theoretical, theological way, as one would chew on an interesting idea or penetrating insight. With the birth of my first grandchild and my first niece, the question of what the world that we live in is really like has pressed into me as I held each warm, small body in my arms, impossible to avoid, full of heft and cry and urgency.
This question—the true nature of the world in which we live—is one of many reasons I’m deeply grateful for guides that have come before me, from the Abbas and Ammas of the early church all the way down to the saints of the present day. And while he hasn’t (and won’t) been canonized, in my books Clive Staples Lewis is one of the great saint-storytellers of the modern era.
Indeed, much like George MacDonald was Lewis’s fictional guide in The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis was my guide 10 years ago as I first began to wrestle with the nature of reality, the existence of God. An agnostic neopagan with a penchant for self-destructive behavior, I was looking not really for answers but for an understanding of the story in which I was living, guided by a small hope that there might, in fact, be an Author out there. In the midst of that search, my inspired friend handed me a copy of Mere Christianity. In it, I met Lewis, who was asking the same questions I was, decades before, and making sense of things in a way that made, well, sense.
“In the beginning was the Word,” we read in John’s Gospel. The word “Word” there is the Greek Logos, which has a variety of valences and meanings, the most encompassing of which we get in the English “Word.” But there’s another meaning of Logos that I learned recently that I like quite a lot: story. In the beginning was the Story, and the Story was with God, and the Story was God.
I like to think that after reading Mere Christianity, Lewis and I became good friends. In my little fantasy world, Lewis looked down from Heaven, saw me reading his book, and good-naturedly nudged more and more of his works my way. I devoured The Great Divorce, Surprised by Joy, and The Screwtape Letters. Having no recollection of reading any of the Narnia series as a child, in our first year of marriage my husband and I began reading the books to each other at bedtime, starting with The Magician’s Nephew. When Bryan read the sentence that you read above from The Silver Chair aloud one night, tears sprung to my eyes, and I told him to read it again. Then again.
Those words describe the kind of courage it takes to live in a world that sometimes loses the plot. Where young lives are cut short by horrible accidents; where cancer deprives a family of four of their beloved mother; where erstwhile kind, thoughtful people deride belief in God as silly or worse yet superstitious. Stories like The Silver Chair inspire me to live boldly, to love wildly and to be on Aslan’s side, no matter what.
And I am on Aslan’s side, as Aslan is on the side of my grandson Luke and my niece Violet. I’m grateful that one day I will whisper into their hungry ears the words that Mr. Beaver first intoned: “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver.”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
So, welcome. Welcome to a month where our blog and bloggers pay tribute to a man who brought story to life for us once more, a man whose words, images and courage continue to inspire future generations.
“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
Tara M. Owens is the senior editor of Conversations Journal. A certified spiritual director with Anam Cara Ministries (www.anamcara.com), she practices in Colorado and around the world. She is profoundly grateful to do ministry and life with her husband and best friend, Bryan. She is working on an upcoming book from InterVarsity Press on spirituality and the body. If you’d like to continue the conversation with Tara, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follower her on Twitter at t_owens.