You Are Not C.S. Lewis

8Did you know that C.S Lewis loved Beatrix Potter’s books when he was a young child? In Surprised By Joy he described an early stab of joy after reading Squirrel Nutkin. Now, few people believe Squirrel Nutkin to be world-changing stuff. It’s just a silly story. But what about The Chronicles of Narnia? What about The Abolition of Man? Till We Have Faces? Mere Christianity? OK, now it’s getting harder to say these titles are not world changing. The work of C.S. Lewis has certainly changed my world, and my family’s, and hundreds, maybe thousands, of people I know.

Everyone wants to be the next C.S. Lewis, and there’s a way in which that’s healthy and a way it probably isn’t. The world doesn’t need another C.S. Lewis, or we’d have one. But I can see how God could use a teeming horde of romantic rationalists to turn the world upside down with imagination, light, wisdom, and the thousand other gifts Lewis, and those like him, have given us.

What I want to say to you and me is this. Maybe we are not one of those “New Lewises.” Maybe we are more like Beatrix Potter. Maybe we are giving something small and beautiful like a delicate flower, so that in the soul of another someone, it might grow into such a tree as to shade millions.

Do not despise Squirrel Nutkin.

It was a sensation, of course, of desire; but desire for what? . . . Before I knew what I desired, the desire itself was gone, the whole glimpse withdrawn, the world turned commonplace again, or only stirred by a longing for the longing that had just ceased. It had taken only a moment of time; and in a certain sense everything else that had ever happened to me was insignificant in comparison. The second glimpse came through Squirrel Nutkin; through it only, though I loved all the Beatrix Potter books . . . it administered the shock, it was a trouble. It troubled me with what I can only describe as the Idea of Autumn. It sounds fantastic to say that one can be enamored of a season, but that is something like what happened; and as before, the experience was one of intense desire. And one went back to the book, not to gratify the desire (that was impossible – how can one possess Autumn?) but to reawaken it. And in this experience also there was the same surprise and the same sense of incalculable importance. It was something quite different from ordinary life and even from ordinary pleasure; something, as they would now say, ‘in another dimension’ . . . [it was] an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy . . . anyone who has experienced it will want it again . . . I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world.       — C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

Peace to you,

S.D. Smith,

Story Warren

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