Today is the anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ death. He happens to be one of my favorite writers. I have great memories of my dad reading the Chronicles of Narnia to us as kids. I also have good memories of listening the the Focus on the Family radio version of the books with my step-daughters on our trips back and forth from Rochester when they were smaller. I have been profoundly moved by his autobiography, “Surprised by Joy”.
In “Surprised by Joy” he shares his journey with Christ. At a young age, in boarding school, he was tired by the weight, of the ritual, of his religion. There was a feeling of, if following Christ is this hard, I don’t really want anything to do with it. At that point, he walked away from faith and that continued for most of his adult life; but, he would have these moments, when he would experience what he called being “surprised by Joy”. In these moment a sadness would lift and a moment of surprising peace and joy would come over him. The sense of a presence, with him, would be there. They often happened at surprising moments. They are, what in many ways, lead him back to faith in Christ.
In my own life I have experienced these moments of Joy and they are surprising. The sub-title of my blog is “Life is Important” and for me these moments have been what I would call real Life moments. A peace comes over me and I know that Life is good. They can happen at odd moments like the sun shining in on a morning across my dining room table. Making love with my husband and knowing we are one. Sitting in our woods under the giant White Pines, hearing the wind whisper through them and feeling it on my face. It also happens on walks, with my family, down our dirt road, at the end of a day, where we have been together and worked hard. Holding a puppy who is licking your face or snuggling with your cat. All of these speak Christ to me and speak Life.
I find it interesting that in the Garden of Eden there were two trees. The Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil both were there. When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit death came. They became knowing of what good and evil are. We today live in that knowledge too. We live with an internal sense of what is right and what is wrong. God, the Father, set up the Law for the Israelites and according to Paul without it we would not know what sin is. In Romans chapter 7 there is a wailing blog of Paul’s struggle with keeping the Law. Why do I do what I don’t want to do and can’t seem to do what I want to do? I hate it!! I can relate to Paul’s problems. Why do I eat more than I should? Why can’t I let go of grievances?
In my experience, in some of the churches today, there are things I have felt shame about…why don’t I give enough, read the bible enough, pray enough, attend bible studies enough, evangelize enough and the list goes on, Really, a lot like, what C.S. Lewis experience in his childhood, the burden of religion.
Romans chapter 8 opened my eyes to something amazing. Starting with chapter 7 verse 24 and following. “24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? 25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. 1 With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. 2 A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death. 3 God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that. 4 And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us. 5 Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them – living and breathing God! 6 Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. 7 Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. 8 And God isn’t pleased at being ignored. 9 But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. 10 But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells – even though you still experience all the limitations of sin – you yourself experience life on God’s terms. 11 It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s! 12 So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. 13 There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. 14 God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! 15 This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” 16 God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. 17 And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us – an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him! 18 That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. 19 The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. 20 Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in 21 until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.”
I don’t know if you can see this, but our lives as believers in Christ, isn’t about keeping a Law anymore. It is about living by His Spirit that is in us and it gives us the desire to live Life because He is Life. Wherever Jesus is there is a freedom and life. No more shame or guilt. No ” to do list” of things we should do…He doesn’t want that. He wants a living breathing loving relationship with us that changes us not from the outside in but from the inside out. That is what I have experienced in my own life. It isn’t about what I can gut it out and get done. It is about what Jesus wants to do inside of me and then see it come out of me. He doesn’t want to load me down with a list of rules. He want to transform me into His likeness. Give me a new heart and a new mind. Read 2 Corinthians and you will see that it is difficult for Jesus to do that when we keep following rules. He want to surprise us with his Life, Joy. Peace, Love, Freedom, Gentleness, Self-Control and so much more and without Him we will never find Him.
Discover your shining surprising Joyful face in Christ!!!