C.S. Lewis

Courage, Dear Heart

In one of The Chronicles of Narnia (I think it’s in Prince Caspian), the allegorical God-figure Aslan tells Lucy, “Courage, dear heart.” His words pierce her soul and introduce some sense of bravery to steady her fearful heart.

Those words have been ringing in my heart too. For the past few weeks, my question to God has been (a less eloquent version of), “How?” How can I follow God’s calling for me without being ruled by fear?

When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a doctor, based solely on how much fun it was to play “doctor” and to “experiment” on my younger brothers and sister. But when I was in fifth grade, I realized that being a doctor meant giving shots and scalpel-ing people, and all of a sudden I didn’t want to be a doctor. But I loved reading and writing, and my next big idea was to become a journalist. 

Since then, the urge to write has never let go of me. I don’t write because I love it (though most of the time I really enjoy it); I write because I have to. I have ideas deep in my gut (is “heart” the more Christian-y word?) that I can’t wrestle with or let out until I start writing.

I’ve never stopped writing. I’ve started and stopped blogging countless times. But the Lord is graciously blessing my writing in a way that I wonder if maybe he’s leading me to start writing more frequently. 

Saying that, I struggle with the desire to succeed. I want to win, and I tend to define a win with lots of glorious ideas and grandeur. But God isn’t calling me to success–he’s calling me to try. God is not Yoda: trying is not failure in his eyes. Fear of failure and foolishness mark a lot of places in my life, and these twin fears impact my writing (or lack of writing). I’m afraid that I’ll write something dumb and be unhelpful to people. I’m afraid that I’ll write for an audience that doesn’t exist. And I’m afraid that even a year or two from now I’ll be embarrassed about what I write today. I tend to think in the binary of success and failure, when life isn’t limited to those two choices. What could be both excites and frightens me, but I’m comforted to know that God knows both what could be and what actually will be.

A few hours passed between writing the preceding paragraphs and what I write now. In the time that elapsed, I had a long conversation with my best friend. She told me what I needed to hear: that when we follow God’s calling, we cannot fail. I don’t write to satisfy my own desires, but to glorify God by using the gifts he has given me. I have to let go of my understanding of failure in order to believe that whatever God asks of me will succeed on his terms, not mine.

So if I knew that God would not allow me to fail, what would I do? I would write.

My heart overflows with a pleasing theme;
    I address my verses to the king;
    my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.
— Psalm 45:1

Review: The Man Who Was Thursday

I can't think of a single book that, upon finishing, I felt the immediate desire to flip back to page one. Until The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton.

I quickly saw why Chesterton and C.S. Lewis are often linked. If The Chronicles of Narnia paints pictures of creation, redemption, God's sovereignty and faithfulness, and the believer's life on earth and in heaven, then The Man Who Was Thursday in a sense allegorizes both the creation narrative and The Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, Luke 8:4-15).

A quick synopsis: Gabriel Syme is recruited to be a policeman whose only job is to combat the growing threat of the anarchist movement. He goes undercover in a group of anarchists and quickly gains rank. Upon learning of a plan to assassinate a political leader after being among the leadership of the anarchist group, Syme attempts to thwart the attack and dismantle the group, only to find people along the way who were also undercover policemen on the same mission. (I'll refrain from going further as spoilers abound!)

The book has several overarching themes, which you can really only piece together once you've finished reading the book. (Chesterton keeps you guessing the whole time.) None of these will spoil the book for you, I promise.

1. Anarchy versus Law – This is the only one that's obvious throughout, but the resolution is not what you would expect. The key to this is the phrase,“Sin is lawlessness.”

2. What is the one thing all people seek but never catch? “…You will have found out the truth of the last tree and the topmost cloud before the truth about me. You will understand the sea, and I shall still be a riddle; you shall know what the stars are, and not know what I am. Since the beginning of the world all men have hunted me like a wolf–kings and sages, and poets and law-givers, all the churches, and all the philosophies. But I have never been caught yet, and the skies will fall in the time I turn to bay. I have given them a good turn for their money, and I will now” (130). You'll have to read the book if you want the answer. Or take a guess.

3. Destruction versus Creation – The anarchist seeks to make everyone as he is – miserable, destitute, under the delusion that the power to destroy is ultimate power. The anarchist cries out for the suffering of all that could be called good, and says that “the unpardonable sin of the supreme power is that it is supreme” (154). His enemy is the Creator, whose good intentions cannot be thwarted by a stick of dynamite.

4. Why we suffer – Chesterton maintains that all suffer, the policeman (Christian) and the anarchist (unbeliever) alike. He seems to argue that the suffering of the believer not only allows him to identify with Christ's suffering but also to expose Satan's lie – that God doesn't care, and doesn't know the hardship believers face because He never suffered. The cross exposes this lie, and the suffering of believers is a continual reminder of Christ's condescension for the lawless world.

This is only one chart of four that I made after reading the book, so consider this a greatly abridged review. I highly recommend reading this book. It's unexpectedly challenging as it graciously invites the reader to consider the ideas within.