Christmas is a joyous time for me, and a retrospective time. When I am thinking back, there is inevitably lingering guilt and regret. One of my biggest woes is how “unplugged” I have often felt from my spiritual and emotional experiences during this year.
Due to my flaws, distractions, and emotional struggles, I have often experienced a sense of disconnect from G*d and the things he offers me [such as prayer or Bible study] as a means of becoming closer to him. I have let other things, feelings, and other relationships get in the way, time and time again stealing away my attentions and affections from where they should be placed first and foremost.
I am sharing that confession, and the excerpts from the following letter with you, because through it, Professor Clive Staples Lewis has comforted and calmed my anxious heart.
CS Lewis often corresponded with his readers, and – as expected- he had some of his most remarkable exchanges with children. This page chronicles the correspondence of Lewis with the Krieg family, namely a boy called Laurence and his mother. Laurence’s mother wrote her first letter to Lewis on behalf of her son, who was nine at the time Over the next several years, Lewis graciously answered questions and share bits of his life with the Krieg family, including in one of his letters a signed copy of The Last Battle.
[It will take a few minutes, but it is well worth reading all the letters- they are a fantastic reminder of how well people can be connected simply as brothers and sisters in faith.]
I found the letters between Lewis and the Krieg family while trying to assuage my curiosity about the “correct order” in which to read the Narnia series, which I just received from my grandparents for a Christmas gift.
Laurence Krieg had been concerned by his honest feelings of loving Aslan more than he loved Jesus. He was worried that he had started worshipping Aslan as an idol. In a letter dated 5 August 1955, CS Lewis answered Laurence’s concerns in a response (via a letter to his mother):
Tell Laurence from me, with my love:
Even if he was loving Aslan more than Jesus (I’ll explain in a moment why he can’t really be doing this) he would not be an idol-worshipper. If he was an idol worshipper he’d be doing it on purpose, whereas he’s now doing it because he can’t help doing it, and trying hard not to do it. But God knows quite well how hard we find it to love Him more than anyone or anything else, and He won’t be angry with us as long as we are trying. And He will help us.
But Laurence can’t really love Aslan more than Jesus, even if he feels that’s what he is doing. For the things he loves Aslan for doing or saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said. So that when Laurence thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus: and perhaps loving Him more than he ever did before. Of course there is one thing Aslan has that Jesus has not – I mean, the body of a lion. (But remember, if there are other worlds and they need to be saved and Christ were to save them – as He would – He may really have taken all sorts of bodies in them which we don’t know about.) Now if Laurence is bothered because he finds the lion-body seems nicer to him than the man-body, I don’t think he need be bothered at all. God knows all about the way a little boy’s imagination works (He made it, after all) and knows that at a certain age the idea of talking and friendly animals is very attractive. So I don’t think He minds if Laurence likes the Lion-body. And anyway, Laurence will find as he grows older, that feeling (liking the lion-body better) will die away of itself, without his taking any trouble about it. So he needn’t bother.
If I were Laurence I’d just say in my prayers something like this: “Dear God, if the things I’ve been thinking and feeling about those books are things You don’t like and are bad for me, please take away those feelings and thoughts. But if they are not bad, then please stop me from worrying about them. And help me every day to love You more in the way that really matters far more than any feelings or imaginations, by doing what You want and growing more like You.” That is the sort of thing I think Laurence should say for himself; but it would be kind and Christian-like if he then added, “And if Mr. Lewis has worried any other children by his books or done them any harm, then please forgive him and help him never to do it again.”
Will this help? I am terribly sorry to have caused such trouble, and would take it as a great favor if you would write again and tell me how Laurence goes on. I shall of course have him daily in my prayers. He must be a corker of a boy: I hope you are prepared for the possibility he might turn out a saint. I daresay the saints’ mothers have, in some ways, a rough time!
C. S. Lewis
What a powerful, yet gentle reminder of the grace of G*d: He knows we are trying to love him the best we can, and He will help us. Don’t get me wrong, I love intellectual pursuits and lofty language as much as the next writer. But it refreshes me to be reminded that before G*d, we are all children.
Lewis was also trying to help Laurence – and me, apparently- to understand that G*d is there for us as we need him, and that he is and can be “everywhere present and fill all things” as one of the Orthodox prayers goes. Whether we love G*d in the strength of Aslan, or in the beauty of a flower, He is being loved all the same.
And the prayer that Lewis suggests Laurence should pray- I can admit I was floored. For those of us who go about “trying to please G*d”: How much more at peace would we be if we asked Him even once a day for His help in such a way? I would do well to commit parts of that prayer to memory, and I’m sure the Lord Himself will have it memorized on my account after a while.
Forgive me [again] for being longwinded- but I wanted to share the gift of those words with you. Hopefully they will bring you the same peace and joy they impart to me, during this time of reflection, as we rest for a moment on the cusp of a new year.
Thank you, Professor. Keep me in your prayers, if you don’t mind.