So Which One Is It, Really?

wheatBy Kate Lucas

It almost seems like this week’s readings make us choose sides.  On one hand, there’s a God of love, compassion, forgiveness in Jeremiah.  On the other, in Hebrews and John, there’s a God who abandons his child and causes despair. So which God is real?  How can both be true?  Can we settle for the explanation that the dark image, the God that allows suffering, is a necessary side of the coin?  That a grain of wheat must die to produce fruit?

These questions bring me back to C.S. Lewis’s, A Grief Observed, an essay that had me riveted when I first picked it up.  In it, Lewis chronicles his experience after his wife’s death, which ocurred a bitterly short time after they were married.  Lewis, the staunch apologist of Christianity that he is, divulges here an intimate account of his dark, gutwrenching experience of grief, in which he questions God considerably, and loses his faith for a time. 

Lewis’s raw authenticity is arresting, and somehow beautiful.  Says Madeleine L’Engle in the foreward to the book, “I am grateful to Lewis for having the courage to yell, to doubt, to kick at God with angry violence.  This is a part of healthy grief not often encouraged” (xvi).  Lewis takes us along on his journey, into the depths, and back out again.  He sees the God described in Hebrews and John.  Yet at the end of the book, we arrive with him at his moment of fruit. 

Through his grieving, Lewis comes to accept that he could never remember his wife completely—that she is bigger, more beautiful, more intricate than he could ever describe.  In fact, he realizes that his ideas of all people—even those still alive, even those in the same room—never fully capture the person.  How often, he asks himself, has he been in his head with these ideas instead of fully present to the person in front of him?  “All reality is iconoclastic,” he writes, “The earthly beloved, even in this life, incessantly triumphs over your mere idea of her.  And you want her to; you want her with all her resistances, all her faults, all her unexpectedness. … And this, not any image or memory, is what we are to love still, after she is dead” (66).  So too with God, it seems.

The experience of his wife’s death shattered Lewis’s image of God, but it didn’t destroy it.  What rose from the rubble was bigger and richer than he could have imagined before.  I suppose the contradiction in this week’s readings is its own iconoclast.  Lewis’s words give me more reverence for the wisdom present there.

Kate Lucas was introduced to C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed by a creative writing teacher, to whom she is grateful.  That teacher also encouraged students to build a personal lexicon, a kind of stash of favorite words, which Kate continues to do.  A few words on her list: thrum, grace, keen, and prairie.

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One Response

  1. The essay by Lewis intrigues me. Thanks to your description, I hope to find it at the library soon. As to the choice between images of God, I have to say, from my experience: we humans tend to be really bad about letting God and God’s love truly move through our lives. Sometimes it’s so hard to admit that, if we feel darkness or separation from God, we are the ones creating it. No more do I believe in a light-dark, coin-flip sort of God that could be either-or. Or both. Instead, I’ve had to admit my role in the whole scene and realize that a God “in whom there is no darkness at all” is truly just that. The darkness we can claim all ourselves. Humans are pretty good at creating that, aren’t they?

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