This past year has been what I have named, “The Year of CS Lewis”. I will explain further on, how I came to commit myself to reading the works of CS lewis throughout this past year. For now, I will share my journey of coming to this point of getting to know the Lewis’s.
I don’t remember the first time I heard of CS Lewis. I’m sure it was when I was a child. Perhaps it was when I was in my elementary school years and I’d go hang out in my dad’s church office. We had free reign in his office! Paper, pens, playing with the phone and all the buttons, hiding under his desk, using the stapler, and flipping through his rolodex to find phone numbers! Ha! And sometimes, there would be mint Tic Tacs! At some point in my younger years, I began to be curious what all the books on his shelves were about. There were whole volumes dedicated to single books in the Bible called “commentaries”, and books on all sorts of topics. That was when I realized there was so much to learn and so much to know about the Bible. It intrigued me. Perhaps it was then that I noticed a book by CS Lewis, or heard one of his quotes in a sermon. There were three moments in time that were pivotal in my introduction to CS Lewis.
The first time I remember hearing about The Chronicles of Narnia was when I was in 6th grade. My public school class was given three options of books to read and we had to choose one. I can’t remember exactly what choices were given, except for one. When I saw the title, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I most emphatically chose to avoid that one. A witch? No thank you. I’m not reading that one. I didn’t know what this story was about and my parents probably didn’t either. I am second-generation Canadian. My grandparents were from Russia, and when their families moved to Canada, the goal was survival, making a new life in a time when there was much uncertainty due to war, immigration, making ends meet, and starting families. Their language was German and their culture was Mennonite. (My parents grew up with a mixture of German and English spoken in their homes.) Learning the best of English literature was not a priority, and the furthest thing from their minds. Most of my relatives at that time probably didn’t even know English until the younger children began going to public schools where they could easily learn and assimilate to their new country and culture.
My elementary years carried on and into junior high school, and then onto senior high. In all those years, I never heard of Narnia again, until I went to Bible College several years later. I remember the exact night I heard of this enchanted place, the passion in the words being spoken about this great story of a great Lion, Aslan. I had a wonderful group of Christian friends, brothers and sisters that I would hang out with. One night, several of these friends were talking about their love of and passion for Narnia. Their eyes lit up and these young men couldn’t stop talking about Narnia. I was inspired. Perhaps, I thought, I should read the Chronicles of Narnia! And so, eventually, I bought a cheap paperback edition and began reading through the series, slowly progressing through the years and enjoying every bit of every story with all my heart. It was after I was married that I decided I needed to finish this children’s series before our baby was born. So I spent the last month before she arrived reading and devouring the final couple books!
The third introduction I had to CS Lewis was when we had three children and my husband and I decided to start reading the Chronicles to our children. It was hilarious to see our oldest two children open the closet door and hesitate, thinking that if they walked through the coats, would they end up in Narnia? We did start reading, but it was short lived and the children weren’t ready quite yet. So we waited. When we got to seminary, we began again, but this time from the chronological beginning, The Magician’s Nephew. The kids were ready and I spent the next year reading aloud to them the entire series. It was a joy to share with my kids these stories I had grown to love.
And so, there you have it. I read the Chronicles of Narnia through twice, and love them!
It was last summer. I was talking with one of the teachers at our kids’ new school and she was telling me about one of the books her older class would be reading that year. It was another CS Lewis book. I realized then that, besides the Chronicles of Narnia, I had not read any of his other books. Such an influential Christian author of the twentieth century, a man whom I had heard quoted all my life, through Bible college, etc, and I hadn’t read any of his other works? How did I even make it through Bible college without having read any of his works? I decided then and there that I would take a year to become more acquainted with the works of Lewis. I began with the suggestion from this friend, his final novel ever written, Till We Have Faces.
I would love to give a book review/reflection on each of the works I have read of his this year, but that may have to wait for another time. For now, I would like to share which of his books I have indeed read this year. I began with his fiction and am now discovering the person of CS Lewis as well as a biography of his dear wife, Joy. Here is a brief list of the Lewis books I have read thus far… a year later:
Till We Have Faces
Out of the Silent Planet
That Hideous Strength
The Four Loves
Surprised by Joy, the Shape of my Early Life
And God Came In (biography of Joy Davidman) by Lyle W. Dorsett
There are many more of his works that I hope to read in this ongoing effort to dive into the wisdom, personality, and testimony of CS Lewis. I am fascinated by the way God brought both “Jack” and Joy to Himself, as well as to each other in marriage and love, and the ways their lives influenced each other and complimented each other. This is one reason why I love to read and write biographies… to see the work of God in and through a person’s life and how its influence reaches into the lives of tens, hundreds, thousands throughout the years and generations.