Monday, September 29, 2008

Four Weeks: One Turns to C.S. Lewis

It occurred to me last night that perhaps Lewis's A Grief Observed would help. Of course, I couldn't find it. So I went to Amazon and extracted the following quotes, which seem to me to reflect the universal experience of anguish in grief. Your mileage may, of course, differ, particularly if your experience is one more of observation than immersion. Many of the Amazon reviews note that the tone of A Grief Observed, written in the aftermath of the death of Lewis's beloved wife, differs considerably from the detached, scholarly (and, one might say, clueless) tone of his much earlier The Problem of Pain.

"Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand."

My version? Dozens, maybe hundreds, of the cards and emails I have received have assured me of the comfort God provides. In the past few days I have found some relief in opening cards from two friends in which they tell me how long the cards have rested on their kitchen windowsills as they have stared at them, wondering what to say, until finally they concluded that there is nothing at all to say beyond the much longed-for "We are here." (Of course, I accept all the other mail in the same vein. We are all doing the best that we can.)

"Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy . . . if you remember yourself and turn to [God] with gratitude and praise, you will be - or so it seems - welcomed with open arms. But go to [God] when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you feel? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside . . . ".

My version, as expressed to my spiritual director, was far less eloquent and a good deal more profane.

"The conclusion I dread is not 'So there's no God after all,' but 'So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer.'"

Exactly.

There is, of course, more. But I am only on the threshold of this journey.

15 comments:

Sarah S-D said...

(o)

sigh.

i'm here.

Kathryn J said...

A journey that I wish you could have been spared. I agree with Lewis' comments on the "consolation of religion" as an overused and trite thing that people say when they can think of nothing else. My worst fears of where you are right now were realized in your post about not being able to pray. I have been unable to find God anywhere in this tragedy.

I am here. I, too, have no idea what to say. I know that I can be here for you and pray for you but have no means to help you on the journey. I think of you often.

"PS" (a.k.a. purple) said...

You are so right. It is a journey. Since you mentioned seeking out printed material, I offer this only as a suggestion...Lament for a Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff. It is a story of his journey following the tragic death of his son.

Magdalene6127 said...

Amen to Lewis and amen to you.

(((GG)))

Stushie said...

It's good book to study and reflect. Lewis doesn't pull any punches or use trifling expressions for painful struggles.

Paul said...

I am hovering around the periphery of your grief, watching you discover terrible truths and unable to offer any consolation.

You have been amazingly clear in your analysis of what prayer is and what it can't be.

I was always Hamlet's uncle Claudius, kneeling in the chapel, nothing going on. Now I don't even go there.

Lisa :-] said...

'So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer.'"

Exactly indeed.

Exactly where I landed after my sister's death.

And why I am the agnostic I am today...

In time, my view morphed into more of a conviction that the image mankind has cobbled together of The Creator does not come even close to the reality. A reality which is impossible for our poor minds to grasp.

Not that God is cruel, or God doesn't exist...we just have no idea what God is.

Sorry I didn't have something more uplifting or comforting to add..

Deb said...

peace... and prayers...

(o)

Deb

steve said...

Thank you for sharing this. I've always thought that Lewis was so much more human, so much more compassionate, so much more profound in his second writing on the topic of death, pain, and grief.

Thoughts and prayers to you.

Michelle said...

I read both The Problem of Pain and A Grief Observed after Tom died...even Lewis' academic treatment has an edge to it.

I just pulled "Pain" off the shelf, and still marked is the passage:

"If I knew any way escape I would crawl through sewers to find it. ....Pain hurts. That is what the word means. I am only trying to show that the old Christian doctrine of being made 'perfect through suffering' is not incredible. To prove it palatable is beyond my design."

Still here, still praying...

Stratoz said...

I keep erasing my thoughts...

so, howdy.

Carol said...

Throughout this journey, you are still teaching us. Teaching about how to best respond to one in grief. And you're sharing, as much as possible, your grieving process. Thank you for your clarity, yet again, and your generosity of feelings.

mompriest said...

deep sigh...too deep for words...thank you, though for sharing your journey...

RevDrKate said...

Still here, listening, praying and wishing there were more I could do. ((gg))

Cynthia said...

Amen.