An open letter to CS Lewis 

“We read to know that we are not alone.”
— CS Lewis

Oh, Professor – how many times have I run, heart wounded and despairing, to your works in search of a quote as though you were an apothecary and your words my balm of Gilead? How often in these last few months alone have I sat at your feet to commit to heart your lessons about the Four Loves? How many hours have I spent in the presence of God with your words guiding my conversations with Him?

I long to be surprised by joy again – to look up through tears and see something that compels me to rise once more to my own two feet even before those tears have dried. I long to find the peace of purpose; wherever it might lie on the road ahead, I long to stumble upon whatever it is that makes my life meaningful in the midst of all the other lives around me.

I fancy myself a writer, though compared to the literary heights to which I aspire the title of “scribbler” seems more appropriate…and perhaps it always will be better suited to me than its nobler counterpart.

Will I ever lead anyone through a wardrobe as you and Lucy led me? Will any of my nighttime thoughts, furtively whispered out loud to empty darkness or feverishly scribbled into a notebook by lamplight, ever be printed so that they may touch another life as yours have done mine? Will I ever have full mastery of this skill with which I have apparently been blessed, so that I may use it to its full potential as God intended?

These are the questions I would ask you if I could sit with awhile with you in one of your old haunts. As a child I imagined you as an uncle who would patiently listen to my incessant chatter about Narnia, answering the questions I had about that wonderful world. As an adolescent I would have debated with you about Screwtape and Wormwood, for I too was an inept youth in desperate need of goodly avuncular guidance. But now I am grown up and the imaginary conversations I have with you know about my haplessness and helplessness would be best suited to brandy in a study, or perhaps even once in a while to The Eagle and Child – though there I would be a most enchanted fly on the wall instead of a demanding pupil.

But how childish and droning my questions seem to be – even to the melodramatic pupil who posits them to you! Maybe it’s better that I bring them to my beloved books instead of to the man who wrote them, for as grown-up as I fancy myself to be I am still childish enough to be totally incapable of gracefully bearing any reproach, no matter how lovingly critical, from one I love so dearly.

So instead I write to your memory, searching for the answers in your written legacy. You are right, dearest Professor – when I read your words, I do not feel so very alone.

You are the potter, and we are the clay

Kintsugi or kintsukuroi is a sub-form of Japanese ceramic art in which broken vessels are repaired using precious metals.  Translated, respectively the words mean “golden joinery” or “golden repair.”

Imagine how it looks:  you can see the past brokenness of the vessel, because it is highlighted by the use of gold or some other precious metal.   Yet, because it is repaired in such an obvious way, it takes on a whole new kind of beauty and a new uniqueness.  The imperfections of the broken shards are emphasized, but the metal that does so makes the piece whole again.  The brokenness becomes a part of its history and a part of its beauty.  Its worth is restored, or even raised, despite the damage being so obvious and plain.

For me, this year’s Holy Week was a rough conclusion to a long and difficult Lenten season.  For the last forty days, and particularly for the last month, I have been trying to fix all kinds of brokenness inside me.  At times, especially in the last half of Lent as I have struggled to mend in the wake of breaking up, it seemed that every time I came close to have a big enough part of myself repaired to truly start moving on, a hammer blow swung down out of nowhere.  Triggered by some memory or keepsake, each swing broke me down all over again and left me discouraged, enraged, and sorrowful.

Looking into myself and seeing all the pieces is difficult.  It’s difficult because I do want to be perfect, even though I know I am only human and therefore intrinsically flawed.  It’s difficult because I often can’t see beyond the shards:  I can’t see how they fit back together and I can’t see that each piece is still there…so it’s hard to believe that I really and truly am whole, even if I am in pieces.

Sitting in Saint Patrick’s Basilica this Good Friday afternoon, during my prayers I was struck by the realization that no human action broke me.

It is true that I made a choice not too long ago that hurt both myself and one I love dearly, and I’m trying now to accept the fact that despite the love that remains I might never have the chance to love him again.  Human error and human action on either part aside, though, I did ask God to show me how to follow Him.  And for me to truly do that, my heart had to be broken.

I think C. S. Lewis explains it best in A Grief Observed when he says,

“God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.”

I know where I went wrong and I know where I could have done better.  I know when and where I was in the right to demand more, and when I was being selfish in doing so.  I know who I trusted more and who I should have trusted most.  But in the end, it all boils down to how this experience of heartbreak and pain has brought me one step closer to Home.

If God broke me with one hand, it was so that He could mend me with the other.  All I have to do is pick up the fragments and place them in His hands, for He has the gold to put them back together.  And when I am ready, I will have been made new again and whole again.  Highlighted by the way He will repair me, my former brokenness will be proof of His love — the same love that led to the Cross, at whose foot I stand today while I await the Risen Lord.

Have a blessed Easter, and may peace and happiness enfold you.