A Taste of Heaven: It's closer than we think. Thoughts from C.S Lewis' The Problem of of Pain

“For union exists only between distincts; and, perhaps, from this point of view, we catch a momentary glimpse of the meaning of all things. . .

Once, before creation, it would have been true to say that everything was God. But God created: He caused things to be other than Himself that, being distinct, they might learn to love Him and achieve union instead of sameness.  . .

But the eternal distinctness of each soul- the secret which makes the union between each soul and God a species in itself-will never abrogate the law that forbids ownership in heaven. As to its fellow-creatures, each soul, we suppose, will be eternally engaged in giving away to all the rest that which it receives. And as to God, we must remember that the soul is but a hollow which God fills. Its union with God is, almost by definition, a continual self-abandonment-an opening, an unveiling, a surrender, of itself. . .

For in self-giving, if anywhere, we touch a rhythm not only of all creation but of all being. . .

From the highest to the lowest, self exists to be abdicated and, by that abdication, becomes the more truly self, to be thereupon yet more abdicated, and so forever.”

 

This week we finish C.S. Lewis’, The Problem of Pain, which we have been reading for the last few months in the Liturgy of Life Reading Group.

Lewis ends his book on pain with a chapter about the hope of heaven.  While life may be a story of suffering it at the very same time is a constant reminder of the eternal joys of heaven.  As our hearts are broken we make space for God to rebuild us, we open up to connection with humanity, we muster all that is unique and special within us and offer it to the world.   A taste of heaven requires no money or strength or resources, no education or skill, just a human soul willing to make a sacrifice.

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

A Taste of Heaven: It's closer than we think. Thoughts from C.S Lewis' The Problem of of Pain

 

A Taste of Heaven: It's closer than we think. Thoughts from C.S Lewis' The Problem of of Pain

A Taste of Heaven: It's closer than we think. Thoughts from C.S Lewis' The Problem of of Pain

A Taste of Heaven: It's closer than we think. Thoughts from C.S Lewis' The Problem of of Pain

 

A Taste of Heaven: It's closer than we think. Thoughts from C.S Lewis' The Problem of of Pain

 

 

 

This post is part of our Reading Group series. Right now we are reading The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis. We would love for you to join us.

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for occasional updates and emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.


Mule Team. Thoughts on Animal Suffering and C.S Lewis The Problem of Pain

The Soul of a Dog Thoughts on Animal Suffering and Spirituality from C.S Lewis, The Problem of Pain

It was a chilly afternoon in early winter and there was a fluffy white mound on the porch when I arrived home from school. My sister, even at 11 years old was every bit of the animal charmer that she is today, and strays had a way of finding her.  This wasn’t the first dog to follow her home but it was to become the most memorable. It took only a few happy slobbers and we were smitten.

Animal Suffering. C.S. Lewis The Problem of of Pain. Liturgy of LIfe Reading Group
This is her (white with spots) in her old age next to my sister’s next dog Ringo.

Daisy quickly integrated into our family and her loyalty to us continued to grow until the end of her life.  We remember her now as our greatest companion, at times when our world felt dangerously fragile, a quiet walk or a round of fetch could rescue us when no human voice could penetrate our aloneness.   And though she had a sweet disposition we credit her with preventing more than one robbery on what could be a shady street.   Our dog was a place of unity, a common love, a place of connection and the more our affection increased the more she became part of us.

This week we finished up C.S Lewis’ chapter on Animal Suffering in The Problem of Pain.  I found all of this book at least somewhat interesting, but this was my favorite part. Mainly because animal pain, at least in Christian circles, is neglected, often under the uninformed idea that man’s dominion over animals means to exploit them rather than to care for them.

Lewis spends a lot of this chapter speculating on the animal soul.  At this point in my life I don’t stay up at night worrying about whether or not Daisy has a soul or if I will see her in heaven (trust me I spent many a night there so if you do I understand), not that it doesn’t matter or that I know the answer, only that I’m okay with whatever the outcome. Soul or not animals are an integral part of our lives, they serve us, we raise them for food and they are our loyal companions.  To ignore the significance of animals in our world is to neglect our own humanity.

Overlooking the role of animals in our lives also requires we forgo the opportunity to learn a valuable lesson about ourselves. While some animals may not have the sophistication to have a consciousness per se (in that they live in the ever present, not incorporating past experiences into some expectation of the future like the human mind does, which spares them much of what humans call suffering, the remembering of past hurt and the anticipating of more of it), other animals, especially those closest to us take on an almost human spirit.

Certainly some of what we see in them is our own desire for our animal companions to be like us. But, subtracting that, their remains a power in the relationship of man and animal. Wendell Berry describes this in Jayber Crow  as he tells of the aging farmer Athey and his mules.

“He and that team of mules had got old together, and they understood one another. The mules seemed to understand even that Athey was lame. He could hang his cane on the fence and take hold of the handles of his breaking plow, and the mules would lean into the collars and just nudge the share into the sod. Athey grunted his instructions to them under his breath, and they listened. He stopped them often-as he would put it, in his quiet way of joking about himself-“so they could rest.” Everything they did on that little place was beautiful.

The harmony found in the relationship between a well trained animal and its master is  beautiful. In the hands of a good trainer an animal learns patience and gentleness and the trainer too learns these things. And of course the opposite is true as we see in the misery of a poorly trained dog, either destructive or cowering, both reflections of the humans that it has encountered.  When we see an animal that seems to have a soul, we see, at the very least,  a reflection of the human that helped to shape it.

Life is sacrament and man’s relationship with animals is not only sacred but is also a mirror of our humanity. As we love animals well (in their right place, not making them equals with man but respecting them for the type of creature that they are) we draw closer to the God who made all of creation and gave it to us to tend. I don’t know if I will see Daisy in heaven but I do know she has soul and it looks a little bit like my own, and my sister’s and brother’s and mom’s and dad’s. And that part at least is eternal.

 

Animal Suffering. The Problem of Pain. C.S. Lewis
A mule team pulling a trash cart in Mexico. These works cherish their animals knowing that without them they can not earn a living.

 

This post is part of our Reading Group series. Right now we are reading The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis. We would love for you to join us.

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for occasional updates and emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.


Thoughts on hell

On Going to Hell Meditations from C.S Lewis' The Problem of Pain

Thoughts on Hell. C.S. Lewis The Problem of Pain

 

Judging by the billboards along our south Texas highways it seems that Christians are focused on one thing and it isn’t the love of God or the hope of new life. Christians it seems are afraid of hell and want everyone else to be afraid too.  And I get it, I mean I don’t want a lifetime of  torture either.  But a Christianity that prioritizes hell misses the point.  Yes we are saved from darkness and death but more importantly we are saved into light and life.  Hell, whatever it may look like, isn’t something outside of God’s reach, all of creation is from God and exists in God.  Hell and all its dark power is still derived from God  and God is good and so is His creation.

C.S. Lewis The Problem of Pain. Hell

Over and over we encounter stories where God’s justice looks more like what we would call mercy.  Adam and Eve disobeyed and ate the apple so God clothed them and lead them out of the garden so they wouldn’t remain in sin for eternity.  The prodigal son who squandered his father’s fortune on selfish living  is received home with celebration and open arms. Nicodemus who spent his life stealing and cheating is chosen by Jesus to be His host and Nicodemus’ heart is changed. God’s judgement is frightening but not something for us to fear.

Right now we are reading C.S Lewis’, The Problem of Pain, in our reading group. In this chapter Lewis takes on the topic of hell and explains how though the idea is brutal it is not contradictory to an idea of a good God.  Even more he gets at the idea that when we talk about salvation as Christians we are talking not so much about a rescue from God’s wrath, as if God were our enemy, but of a liberation from our own ambition which leads to self destruction.

Our imaginary egoist has tried to turn everything he meets into a province or appendage of the self. The taste for the other, that is, the very capacity for enjoying good, is quenched in him except in so far as his body still draws him into some rudimentary contact with an outer world. Death removes this last contact. He has his wish-to lie wholly in the self and to make the best of what he finds there. And what he finds there is Hell. 

– C.S Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Put even more elegantly by Bishop Kalomiros in River of Fire,

God’s judgement is nothing else than our coming into contact with truth and light. …Our hearts will be opened by the penetrating light of God, and what is in these hearts will be revealed. If in those hearts there is love for God, those hearts will rejoice seeing God’s light. If, on the contrary, there is hatred for God in those hearts, these men will suffer by receiving on their opened hearts this penetrating light of truth which they detested all their life.

 

 

This post is part of our Reading Group series. Right now we are reading The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis. We would love for you to join us.

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for occasional updates and emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.

 


Marriage, Our Wedding

Redemption through Pain, A Glimpse Into My Story Reflections from C.S. Lewis' The Problem of Pain

I would have lost my virginity on the cold tile of a bathroom floor a few days after my 16th birthday except I was so tense with fear that the 26 year old man hovering over me couldn’t take it without tearing me apart. He had at least a moment’s worth of good judgement that night, which is more than I can say for myself, and stopped.  To be honest I’m not sure when I lost it, there were so many attempts and near misses that by the time it happened I was too numb to notice.

Insecurity ruled my life even as a child.  I was a loud-mouthed and capable Girl Scout, a strong swimmer who made all A’s. I could start a fire with one match and change a tire, yet shame was my plague. As a family we were always looking to get ahead which left me feeling a step behind. I was a constant outsider, convinced that there was some big secret everyone was in on except me.

When puberty hit and my body changed all on its own into something that got attention I was thrilled even if I was only noticed by middle school boys and creepers on the street.  I relished my new ability to turn heads with no concern for the expectations that my Daisy Dukes and Spandex were stirring.  It didn’t take long before my attention craved self ended up  in dark basements and storage closets with guys who took my flirtations far more seriously than I intended.

And then my parents announced their divorce the Sunday after Junior prom.  I was still groggy from the night out when my mom woke me to break the news.  Suddenly life was a whirlwind and all that had meant stability was turning to dust and blowing away.

.    .    .

Yet in the midst of family chaos and my own increasingly self destructive choices I miraculously began connecting with a new group of friends. They were the very girls I used to make fun of, the ones I called “Bible Beaters” while I gossiped about how they threw snakes and did cartwheels in their church aisles.  If they wouldn’t have been quite so sweet and I quite so lonely I would have never gone for it, but they were that sweet and I was that lonely.  I found myself living two lives, one of sneaking out and drinking cheap beer and the other of Youth Group and mission trips.   I began to read my Bible but mainly just to check and see if the youth pastor’s claims were actually in there. I still look back at those pink highlighter marks I made my first time through the gospel of St. Luke.  It said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”

 

Redeption through pain a glimpse into my story: Reflections on C.S. Lewis' The Problem of Pain.

And then something happened. I was in my room alone the Thursday afternoon before Orthodox Easter of my senior year, not doing anything particular, or maybe getting ready to go to the church service that night with my Yiayia, when God showed up.  I didn’t see or hear anything, yet something was there, something I wasn’t looking for (at least so I thought) and wasn’t expecting. Suddenly I was being smothered by Peace and I never wanted it to stop.  And at the same time I was standing on the edge of a cliff and The Peace was telling me to jump. I knew that to jump meant to die  and give myself  to God and yet to not jump was  to die too, to suffocate in my own failure.  There was a choice and yet there was no choice, I had to jump.  In that afternoon everything changed.

 

On that day a change began in me. In addition to giving out Bibles as birthday presents and plastering my walls with Christian paraphernalia I became less angry and more hopeful.   And yet my conversion was by no means a cure to pain. I had a new confidence that God had a plan for me and I had intimate and stable friendships.  But I soon headed off to college and fell into old patterns of unhealthy relationships which I balanced out with self hate and bouts of anorexia.  After college I moved back home to be closer to my family but got antsy. I booked myself a flight to Europe, alone for 4 months.  I didn’t know it then but I was putting God to the test, running away and wondering if He would follow.

 

After Buckingham Palace and the Eiffel Tower I fell into the backpacking culture and soon began throwing myself at any male who gave me a second glance. I drank wine by the bottle, passed around hash and shacked up with a strangers for a free place to stay and a little taste of adventure.

 

I came home from that trip  ruined, (though its only been since becoming a mother myself that I’ve reflected on how much danger I really had put myself in) and it was right where I needed to be. I walked into the same living room with my old friends and the Bible study that they were still doing.  I was done. I had tried and failed. I couldn’t live by my own standards, maybe others could, but not me. I needed my friends and I needed God and they both met with arms open.

.    .    .

Right now we are reading The Problem of Pain, by C. S. Lewis in the Liturgy of Life Reading Group and reflecting on the role of  suffering in our lives which motivated me to share this story. Sometimes I feel ridiculous carrying on about my pain, after all most of my distress has resulted from my own poor choices. Nothing really “bad” has ever happened to me in my entire life.  What do I have to say to the Syrian refugee or the cancer patient?

But now I’m a doctor and I know that whether we shoot off our own foot or are hit in a drive by, the pain from our wound is there to tell us that there is something wrong, it compels us to seek help.  I’ve learned that we can either live our lives doped up on the morphine of our own ambitions or we can look for pain’s source. I’m convinced that all pain is a longing for wholeness, for health, for intimacy with our Creator.

 

Redeption through pain a glimpse into my story: Reflections on C.S. Lewis' The Problem of Pain

The image that Christians have chosen to represent our faith is the cross, a device of torture, a tool that was used to kill our Savior.  Pain that leads unto death is an inseparable part of the Christian story. And yet it is the very place where we find life.

 

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”

 

 

Redeption through pain a glimpse into my story: Reflections on C.S. Lewis' The Problem of Pain

 

This post is part of our Reading Group series.  Right now we are reading The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis. We would love for you to join us.

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for occasional updates and emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.