Sunday, December 18, 2011

C.S. Lewis – Leaving the Shadowlands

Two evenings ago I read the last letter Lewis wrote before his death that is published in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis Vol. III, Walter Hooper, editor; Harper San Francisco. Since I have been posting excerpts from his letters in 1958 it was my intention to continue working forward from 1958 through November 1963, therefore not interacting with his last months in 1963 until sometime well into 2012 – it was with this thought in mind that I published my last post on Lewis. 

However, having now completed the journey, with the herbs and spices of those last months of his life seasoning my heart and mind, I feel I must return to June 1963 and revisit Lewis with you in order to better share my sense of the man, the Christian, whilst the aroma and taste is  fresh with me.

But to get to June 1963 I begin with an excerpt from November 21, 1963, the last published letter Lewis wrote (in The Collected Letters). 

“Dear Philip Thompson,
“To begin with, may I congratulate you on writing such a remarkably good letter; I certainly could not have written it at your age. And to go on with, thank you for telling me that you like my books, a thing an author is always pleased to hear. It is a funny thing that all the children who have written to me see at once who Aslan is, and grown ups never do!

As I have previously observed, Lewis wrote to children. Not only did he write for children, he wrote to children. And as he did not engage in condensation in writing for children, nor does he condescend in writing to children. What better way to conclude a life’s correspondence than with a letter to a child? Granted, Lewis may have had no inclination that his letter to Philip Thompson would be his last letter, but I can imagine no better way for the author of the Narniad to conclude a lifetime of correspondence than with a letter to a child.

Lewis’s correspondence as an adolescent and as a pre-Christian adult was often that of an arrogant ass, looking down on others – hardly willing to condescend to others. There were also letters of struggle, questions, and despair in those early years. Lewis’s letter to Philip Thompson is one of a man who not only writes to a child as he would speak to that child; it is a letter from a man who knows that our only hope is the love, grace, and mercy of God – a man not arrogant, but rather a man humbled by the Carpenter from Galilee. The Cambridge professor’s tutor is a Carpenter, and wasn’t it the Carpenter who said, “Suffer the little children to come to Me….”?  

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