Thursday, February 5, 2009

Coffeegirl Book Club

Encounter with Light

"I suspected that all the yearnings I had ever felt -- when autumn leaves were burning in the twilight, when wild geese flew crying overhead, when I looked up at bare branches against the stars, when spring arrived on an April morning -- were in truth yearnings for him. For God. I yearned toward him."

Each chapter of this book contributes to the reason I love it so much. But while reading this chapter, I was convinced once more that this is the real reason I love this book so much – the Encounter with Light. I have again found many of my own thoughts and feelings in the lines of this chapter.

After years of public education, I thrived during my years at Seminary when I found myself surrounded by others who were thinking deeply about their faith. The issues that Vanauken grapples with and the insights from C.S. Lewis address many of the topics I myself have wrestled with. Of all the insightful points in this chapter, the idea I love the most is this piece of C.S. Lewis’ ponderings on ‘what the existence of the wish suggests’:

Do fish complain of the sea for being wet? Or if they did, would that fact itself not strongly suggest that they had not always been, or would not always be,purely aquatic creatures? Notice how we are perpetually surprised at Time.(“How time flies! Fancy John being grown-up & married! I can hardly believe it!) In heaven’s name, why? Unless, indeed, there is something in us which is not temporal.

I love this line of reasoning that reveals, or perhaps better said, confirms that we know on an unconscious level that we have been created an existence other than this worldly reality. We feel bound by time for we are created for eternal freedom; we are moved by and yearn for beauty because the presence of pain and unsightly surroundings were not intended to be part of God’s creation. Thinking in this way seems to make more sense of the human experience than anything else I’ve come across.

I also love C.S. Lewis’ response to the draw of the afterlife, focusing on the fact that God expected the Hebrews to believe in him for centuries without promising them an after-life, like “the disguised prince in the fairy tale who wins the heroine’s love before she knows he is anything more than a woodcutter.” I am dismayed at how many times belief in Jesus is depicted first and foremost as the means of getting to heaven and escaping hell. I love Lewis’ reinforcement of the truth that we are to believe in the God of the Bible because of the truth of who He is, nothing more, certainly not the benefit we receive from that truth.

The following quote is something I believe wholeheartedly, particularly at this time in history when so many base their acceptance or rejection of religion on personal experience with its followers.

The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians–when they are somber and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths.

This statement humbles and challenges me, reminding me that I am His ambassador, sent to represent his truth and love in this world.

And now, how about you? I love reading your comments when you find time to write and hope to hear from you again this week. Becky, I hope you’ve had some time to delve into the book now that it’s finally arrived! For those who haven’t yet spoken up, let us know what you think of the book thus far.


Dana said...

What will your next book club selection be? I'm overseas and would go ahead and see about getting it.


Shilo said...

Lewis'statement about time (which you also quoted) really resonated with me as well. It was as if God said to me, "Yes, it's true! The rapid passing of time, against your will (thinking especially today of leaving family again), is just one more reminder that you were created for timeless, eternal worship of Me. Another reminder that every longing of your heart will be fully met when you greet Me face to face!" What a marvelous day that will be!

Becky Aguirre said...

Woohoo! I caught up with you all today! And I have to say that I am really enjoying the book so far. Wow, this guy really has a talent for the words! The pictures and emotions he evokes by his writing are priceless.

I was struck by these same passages, how God was drawing them to Himself through those yearnings for beauty...and also the strong witness of those Christians they encountered at Oxford. I really enjoyed following their journey towards their "encounter with light". Having grown up in a Christian/missionary household, it is a good reminder for me how things might look for someone on the "outside", so to speak. How my daily witness can draw others to Christ or repulse them.

I had never really thought about the Hebrews having no promise of the afterlife...I guess I thought that there are mentions of Paradise or that people understood that if they followed God's laws they would go to be with God after death (examples of that being Enoch, Moses, etc). But I think that in a way he's right, the OT shows that mankind had really no interest at all in God, but that God was moving over the earth reaching out to those who might respond to Him, revealing Himself to man. Several examples of that would be Abraham, Job, Melchizedek, Jethro...where I'm going with this is that it seems like being reconciled with God throughout their lives was a more important issue there in the OT than the question of the afterlife...of course, in the NT, everything changes with Christ's death and resurrection and the subsequent revelations in the NT about our eternal security, etc.

Okay, well, Miguel helped me with those thoughts, so can't take all the credit for those comments...I am finding the book to be very thought-provoking. I don't know that I would normally have picked up this book to read, but I'm glad that you chose it for the book club! :)

BTW, I will be traveling over the weekend, so might not be back to comment until Sunday...a bunch of us are headed north of the border for a Beth Moore conference! I'm so excited (except that 2 of my kids are sick and Miguel's not doing so hot himself...uh-oh).

amyinbj said...

This will be short as I have just gotten out of two days of meetings and have another half to go. I about jumped up and down when I got to the quote about time because I reference it often and attribute it to Lewis but couldn't ever find where I had read it. It is spot on -- and there is something about it that resonates so deeply (which is why so many of us have commented). More tomorrow. Amy

Libby said...

I am loving this chapter and the next two as well! In this chapter one thing that stood out to me was the different things that he would get "stuck" on and that took time for him to "get". I am realizing too that as a believer who is also human I need time to "get" something as well. God is so loving and merciful to show us things in a way that turns the lights on for each of us individually.
One thing that hit him right before he chose Christ was the quote"Lord, I believe; help though mine unbelief" He said: "Wasn't that just my position? Believing and not believing?"
He felt that going forward was taking a big leap to say he believed and then he realized that going back would be a great leap too. He realized that to reject God was something he couldn't do. He could not be certain that Christ wasn't God.
And I just love reading how he and Davy each believed. From one minute to the next they "did it". :)
I thought his sonnet was excellent called "The Gap".
I Can't wait to talk about the next chapter!

Coffeegirl said...

I'm back after a few days of life just taking over - and so glad to hear your thoughts! Becky, welcome to the book club - I'm glad you've enjoyed catching up. I have continued to think about that "outside perspective" you mentioned and have been challenged again in the reminder that every moment, word and action ought to be a reflection of His light in me.

The other thing I loved in that line of thinking was when Van and Davy took up the collection of money on the boat for the woman who lost her purse. I loved reading about their confusion on why people would ask or assume they were Christians for doing such a thing! Isn't it great to realize that the outside world recognizes kindness and generosity as a Christian trait?

Shilo, your mention of family leaving again last week really drove this point home for me. That instance of feeling so keenly aware of the unnatural experience of being separated from loved ones and ruled by time is right at the heart of the matter for me. How were your goodbyes?

Amy, I think you're right that the time factor has resonated with so many of us because it is so central to our human experience. That line of reasoning can be applied to so many aspects of the human struggle - pain, broken relationships,'s all unnatural. I'm glad to have this perspective to share with people during difficult times - it explains a lot, doesn't it?

Libby, I loved observing the process of their coming to faith as well. The Gap really highlights so many aspects of that. In my own moments of thinking critically about the faith I find myself in that same position - looking back reveals a much larger gap that I could never cross. I never would have articulated it that way, so I loved reading his words on it.

Any other comments or insights from you all? I'm excited for the next chapters as well! Looking forward to "chatting" with you all about it this coming week.

Becky, hope you enjoyed the conference. Was your family was well enough for you to leave peacefully?

Coffeegirl said...

Dana, glad to hear you're thinking ahead to the next one! At this point I'm not sure what book we may look at next, but your comment was a good prompt to start thinking ahead to that. I'll keep you posted!


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