On C. S. Lewis, His Personal Devotion to Relationships, and My Depravity

Courtesy of The Inklings, we have this this excerpt of Erik Routley’s remembrance of C. S. Lewis taken from C. S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table and other Reminiscences:

I know myself what others know far better — how unfailingly courteous Lewis was in answering letters. I think I corresponded with him on three or four occasions… But there was a reply every time — it might be quite brief, but it was always written for you and for nobody else. I think this was his greatest secret. He hated casual contacts; human contact must, for him, be serious and concentrated and attentive, or it was better avoided. It might be for a moment only, but that was its invariable quality. That is not only why so many people have precious memories of him; it is also why he couldn’t write three words without the reader’s feeling that they were written for him and him alone. It’s why his massive books of scholarship read as delightfully as his children’s stories, and why he’s one of the few preachers who can be read without losing their message.

Having read this, I find myself ashamed at the thought of my own inattention to others, at the very lack of effort I put into achieving quality in a shared experience. I find that I am vain and self-absorbed, wholly committed to the selling of myself on the stock market of the moment, more concerned with how I am perceived than with how I truly am. Even now, as I read back through this, I find myself thinking, what will people think of me when they read these things? Will they think me genuine? Perhaps if I tell them that I’m thinking about it they will… My only consolation is that I am not alone in my depravity, and that is almost no consolation at all.

How do you rate compared to Lewis?

mourning

I have never been anything other than a man
and so I cannot know how women mourn
and whether it is the same, or different

I have seen the mother, the wife, the girl,
sitting at her bedside, her dead child in her hands
weeping on his upturned face.
There is nothing selfish there.
She is broken, and weary.
She is full of pain, and strangely, guilt.
It is something that I can barely know.

I am most familiar with the man in the room
the one who stands behind her,
who believes that because she is broken, he must be whole,
who cries, but silently
who looks down through tear filled eyes,
and loves them both.

The Mundane Deception

If you listen to commercials or read print ads, you’ve probably run into the word “mundane” a few hundred times or more. You may have even used it from time to time in everyday conversations. And why shouldn’t you? It’s a perfectly good word for describing the ho-hum, humdrum, habitual lives that we hate to live. Or is it? I think that somewhere in the modern consumption of the word, we have also managed to swallow a lie. And not just any run of the mill, garden variety lie, but a lie big enough to turn the tables and swallow us as well. A lie that, were things seen as they truly are, would be properly described as mundane.

The word mundane comes from the Latin word mundis, and means of the world or earthly and by implication, it has come to mean boring, banal, and unexciting. And that’s significant, because mundane has another meaning as well, one that backtracks a bit and unwinds itself, a meaning that in some ways, diminishes the borders of the word, and in other ways, sets it up as a ruler over an incredibly populous kingdom. Intrigued? The word mundane means of the world, and before you say, “you just said that”, let me explain that it means of the world in the sense that it does not mean, of heaven.

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This is a love story: a very short (and possibly unfinished) work of fiction

Author’s Note: This is not a new piece. I wrote it a few years ago, and while I’m still not totally happy with it, for some reason, I like it very much. So, occasionally, I get it out, reread it a few times, make a few edits, and stare at it, all the while wishing I had an idea for making it longer. This time, I thought I would share it with you. As always, comments are welcome

This is a love story. There is a girl. There is a boy. It is traditional.
I should warn you though, you have already been lied to.

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Why is that man smiling: Reason, Insanity and Pleasure

About ten years ago, on one of the first nights of my EMT/Paramedic clinicals, we had a mental patient in the ER for a few hours. He was a little fidgety man that smiled a lot, muttered under his breath constantly, and made little jokes about being restrained and about sneaking out of the hospital. He was, in many ways, the traditional comedic psych patient as seen on TV, and as I was young and naive (which might be redundant, but there you go there), well, I was completely disarmed by him.

It was sometime after midnight as I was leaving his room, that the doctor that was proctoring me at the hospital stopped me and said quite simply, “Charles, I would not, at any time, turn your back on that man. You don’t know anything about him, and he may be quite dangerous.” And I did what any young, naive fool would do: I said, “Yes sir” and “Thank you” and immediately forgot what he had said.

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Postpartum Depression, Love, Joy, and Marriage

I’ve been making a point in this last year to be more transparent. There is a tendency among people and particularly among Christians, to pretend that all is well. That joy means happiness, that peace means a life without conflict. We all have problems, we all have conflict, joy is from knowing that these conflicts are the work of God, peace comes when we accept the things he has put into out lives – the good and the bad.

We had a baby girl this past December, and while it was joyous, we’ve had a difficult time with postpartum depression. My wife had a bit with our first child but it wasn’t quite as bad. Some of it is just due to differences between the two children, but I think (from hearing the same thing from many women who have had 4+ children) that girls are harder on the woman than boys are (even the Torah says the period of rest after childbirth is longer after a girl). So it’s been difficult. I’ve spent a lot of time at night praying, dreading when our daughter would cry, knowing that each time she screamed that Susan was battling with how she felt, struggling with thoughts she did not choose to have. It would be foolish for me to suggest that she was the only one struggling.

There has been an aspect of humility in all of this; I realized that I had not prepared my family in some ways for the challenges of a new child, that I had not been spending time in the Word of God with my wife like I should have been. I had let the world inform our minds on the value of the home, and on the value of children. And so there were many hours spent in prayer: Dear God please help my child to have faith so that she will not demand to be held constantly, please help my wife to call upon you, to cast her cares upon you, to take the thoughts she is having captive. Please help me to be wise in my words, prompt in my actions. Help me to be not so foolish as I have been, Above all else, thank you for this child, thank you for these sleepless nights, thank you for showing me my failures before they cost me more than they already have. It is getting better, much better, but it is still on occasion difficult. The real difficulty is in not falling back into old habits as I see improvement, in believing that the crisis is over, that I can return to my foolish ways without consequence.

There is more about these things that I would like to say, but they can come later. For now, this is sufficient. For those of you who read this, how does this compare to your own experiences? How did you deal with similar struggles?

The Audit

They will show up at your door, and you will be expecting them. They will, of course, be on time. They will be wearing suits, black and flat, made of fine Italian silk. Their shirts are always white or cream, bright and starched, and their ties are serious and dark. They will stand in the doorway and smile and shake your hand, and make comments about how hot or cold or wet it has been of late. They will bring a present for your wife.

When you invite them in, they will stand awkwardly in your living room or den or foyer saying nothing until you ask them to sit. Then they will sit down on your couch and will accept the coffee that you offer them. They will make small talk with you, while your wife fills their cups, and then they will quickly drink it, no matter how hot it is, they will not let it cool, they will drink it down and then they will thank your wife and smile, baring straight white teeth.

They will have the records with them, printed on neatly folded paper in clean dark lines. You are free to have your own lawyers and accountants look at them if you wish, but no mistakes will be found. Others have paid more than you have ever owned looking for errors and have found none.

They will be patient with your questions, and will take whatever time is needed to satisfy you, but in the end, you will agree with them. You will hear yourself say, everything seems to be in order. You may think to ask if there is not a need for signatures and if you do, they will make a sound like laughter, high and tight in their noses. It is not a pleasant sound, but they will make it and they will say that no, there is no need for signatures today. That was taken care of years ago, are you quite sure that you don’t remember?

This is when you must be brave. The knock at the door will be the knifeman. He will be dressed in black as well, but his clothes are made of a coarser cloth. Under his arm he will carry a case, also black, and he will ask that you clear a place where he can unroll it. His knives are sharp and bright and there are so many of them. Do not worry about whether you will panic. You will not. You will stand still in your living room, your wife standing beside you, and you will ignore the scream that lodges in your throat, the voice of what can only be your soul as it tells you to fight, to turn and flee, to do anything but stand and watch this happen. You will ignore it. You have been trained well. You will stand still while your wife stands and watches, while the knifeman makes the incisions, while he flays the skin and drains the blood. You will not feel a thing is all that he will say to you and when you hear it, you will wonder, perhaps the very last thought you will ever have, have I ever?

 

 

On the stillbirth of my nephew

The broken child upon the bed,
The stains from where his mother bled,
The crown of tears wreathed round his head,
The ache and fear of faith misled;
On bended knee with arms outspread
With wordless cries my heart has said,
And wept the prayers this night has bred:
“O Lamb of God,” my son is dead.
“My God, that I had died instead.”

Night and day, grief and peace,
between each there is a moment that is neither one nor the other,
where both fit neatly on the same horizon,
or in the same heart.

The broken child lies on the bed,
The morning sky grows soft and red,
Bathed in the glow it’s softly shed,
I hold my son and stroke his head,
And think on words that David said.
This precious child – not broke, nor dead,
I’m promised that he sleeps instead,
Thus grief and joy are ever wed,
My grief and joy are ever wed.