Posts Tagged ‘C.S. Lewis’

On Forgiveness

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

When it comes to a question of our forgiving other people, it is partly the same and partly different. It is the same because, here also forgiving does not mean excusing. Many people seem to think it does. They think that if you ask them to forgive someone who has cheated or bullied them you are trying to make out that there was really no cheating or bullying. But if that were so, there would be nothing to forgive. (This doesn’t mean that you must necessarily believe his next promise. It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart – every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out.) The difference between this situation and the one in which you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily, in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough. As regards my own sins it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are not really so good as I think; as regards other men’s sins against me it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are better than I think. One must therefore begin by attending to everything which may show that the other man was not so much to blame as we thought. But even if he is absolutely fully to blame we still have to forgive him; and even if ninety-nine per cent of his apparent guilt can be explained away by really good excuses, the problem of forgiveness begins with the one per cent of guilt that is left over. To excuse, what can really produce good excuses is not Christian charity; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.
“On Forgiveness” (The Weight of Glory) by C.S. Lewis

Peeking round the church door

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

If, as our Pastor preached last week, my life’s map is drawn by God, then that map has been coloured in by my children.

One’s personal salvation is unique – an amalgam of emotion, spirit, enlightenment, sensation and faith, brought together in one time and one place – just for that individual.

For some, salvation is found in the charged atmosphere of an altar call, for others it comes amid the conquering of an addiction.  For me, it was the quiet culmination of years of avoidance, searching and questions and was found through books and music, the prayers of my wife and the unquenchable grace I found in my children.

I can only guess at the influence of my wife’s prayers and whether they were answered or not, for they were silent or at least never in my hearing.  However, I doubt that it is is merely coincidence that you’ll find a slim book on one of our bookshelves called ‘The Power of A Praying Wife’.

Along with the rest of the family, I read a great deal – which is not always a good thing – but I enjoy seeing through other’s eyes; the opportunities for learning and the challenging of my assumptions that reading offers.  This being the case, it might seem strange that I didn’t turn to the Bible for the answers I sought – well, not to begin with anyway.

Of the all the authors I read in my quest to find answers, there were two who helped guide me across the line between ‘stubborn and curious atheist’ and ‘stubborn and curious Christian’ – Francis Collins and C.S. Lewis.

As a renowned geneticist and director of The Human Genome Project, Francis Collins might not be the obvious choice for those seeking God.  However, in his book ‘The Language of God’, Collins sets out a strong and balanced case that science and faith do not have to be mutually exclusive.

In the book, Collins describes how, early in his career as a physician, he encountered a woman suffering from severe angina who appeared to take great comfort in her faith.  During a conversation one day, she put the young Collins on the spot by asking him what he believed. The question shook him. A staunch atheist up to that point, he wrote, “suddenly all my arguments seemed very thin, and I had the sensation that the ice under my feet was cracking.”   While Collins’ theistic-evolutionist stance will trouble some of you I’m sure, his argument for faith was the best I had heard up to that point.

Like thousands of others, the writing of C.S. Lewis provided me with great insight and great comfort as I read of his coming-to-faith.  Lewis compared his conversion to waking up from a sleep, “a long sleep” he called it.  He became aware that his blindness to God had been what he described as a “willful blindness” – a phrase that perfectly reflected my own state through the years.

Around the same time I was reading Lewis’ Mere Christianity, I was introduced to Brooke Fraser’s music through my girls.  Listening to her CD in the car, I was struck by the lyrics of one song in particular:

If I find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy,
I can only conclude that I was not made for here […]
Am I lost or just less found?
On the straight or on the roundabout of the wrong way?
Is this a soul that stirs in me, is it breaking free,
wanting to come alive?
‘Cause my comfort would prefer for me to be numb
And avoid the impending birth of who I was born to become.

These words really spoke to me for they described the type of growing uncertainty and anxiousness I was feeling.  So you can imagine the God moment I felt when I finished my journey, looked down at the CD cover and discovered the song was called ‘The C.S. Lewis Song’.

As someone once wrote, Lewis had resisted God because he wanted to be his own lord.  But he also realized that Jesus was the deepest Joy for which he had been longing since he was a boy.  After his surrender to Christ he experienced a peace and delight he had never known before.  I found that same peace and delight one evening when my wife left a note on my pillow, pointing me to Jeremiah 29:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  In those days when you pray, I will listen.  If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.  I will be found by you,” says the Lord.”

In that one passage were the exact words describing where I was in my journey at that moment.  For the first time since I left the Quaker Meeting for Worship I had last attended 30 years before, I found myself in a place where I was able to conceive of and accept the existence of God.

As Easter approached, I continued to struggle with the fact that Jesus Christ died for my sins and that my salvation was secured through a Father’s sacrifice of His only Son.  As a father of four beautiful girls, I found this simply too hard to comprehend and I floundered, failing to understand that my self-reliance and intellectual reasoning were the proverbial planks in my eyes preventing me from seeing the bigger picture.

The girls were involved in the Easter production at church and, dropping them at rehearsals one day, I peeked round the door to see what was going on.  No-one seemed to notice so I watched for a while.  Before I knew it, I had been co-opted into the stage crew by the director and was helping rig lights and shift scenery – all stuff I was familiar with and enjoyed doing.

In the weeks that followed, to no greater surprise than my own, I spent more time in a church than I had since our wedding and the girls’ christenings.  At one rehearsal, I looked up and saw that two of my girls were on stage dancing to Michael Smith’s worship song, ‘Above All’.  During that dance, I finally saw myself as broken and, squatting in the hushed dark of the sanctuary, I gave my life to Christ.

Like a typical bloke, I didn’t tell anyone.  I felt shocked and relieved, confused and elated all at once.  My stubborn pride sewed my lips shut and I carried my salvation like a secret through each performance hoping that, in the dark, no-one would see the tears in my eyes or the stupid grin on my face.

God knew I needed another push to get me across the line and he chose the after-show party to make sure I heard Him loud and clear.  In thanking everyone for their help on the show, the director said that she wanted to single out a woman who had, without fuss and with a servant heart, helped out wherever it was needed during the production.

To this day, I don’t recall the director’s exact words or the examples she gave but I do remember thinking that, whoever the woman was, she must be a mighty woman of God.  When the director spoke my daughter’s name, the axis of my world shifted irrevocably for the second time in as many weeks.  I baled out the church hall fire doors wondering how it was that others saw things in my own children that I had missed.  That night, when I went to tuck them into bed and kiss them goodnight, I swallowed my pride, got on my knees and asked my two youngest to teach me how to pray.

Since then, I have continued to grow in faith and I have learned much that I can share with my own girls and the fantastic kids at our Friday intermediate youth club.  From those early days of reading anything but the Bible, my Bible collection has grown considerably.  Just this week, I was happy to pass on my first study Bible to my to the daughter in whom others saw so much.

As an older ‘young’ Christian, there are two pieces of Scripture I would like to speak into your hearts and leave you with on this Father’s Day.  For the parents, grown ups and older siblings, my sharing is from Psalm 127:

“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.”

And for all the children and young people here, I can find no better words than those of Paul in 1 Timothy 4:12:

“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”

Try and keep these in your hearts – because you never know when the next lost soul will be peeking round the church door.

Peeking round the church door: a father’s testimony

Father’s Day Service, Sunday 6th September 2009