C.S. Lewis. The legend.
Put your finger on any page bearing C.S. Lewis’ name and you’re bound to find the kind of thought-provoking words worth cross-stitching on a pillow, printing neatly on an index card to tape onto your fridge, or throwing out mid-conversation at any dinner party, birthday, funeral, baptism, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.
Lewis untangled labyrinthine theories of life and faith until they were so plain it felt elementary, then turned around and discussed the plain, obvious world in such poetic descriptions you felt yourself rising on your toes.
And while many Lewis fans know a thing or two about this man who was once a toddler declaring he would henceforth be called “Jack” (and was for the rest of his life), who was injured in the first world war and called on to preach to the troops in the second, who spent hours each week writing letters back to every single person who’d sent him mail, there are several more details about Lewis’ life that are both inspiring and convicting:
- From his first writings, Lewis gave at least two-thirds of his royalties away
Most of the money went to orphans and widows in need. And even more astounding, his charity was largely kept secret until after his death. He says,
“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc, is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them. I am speaking now of charities’ in the common way. Particular cases of distress among your own relatives, friends, neighbours or employees, which God, as it were, forces upon your notice, may demand much more: even to the crippling and endangering of your own position. For many of us the great obstacle to charity lies not in our luxurious living or desire for more money, but in our fear—fear of insecurity. This must often be recognized as a temptation” (Mere Christianity).
- Lewis cared for the mother of an army friend for over thirty years
Regardless of speculations on the details, the fact is that Lewis promised Paddy, an army friend, that if he should die during the war, Lewis would look after Paddy’s mother. After Paddy’s death, Lewis was true to his word. Not yet twenty years of age and pinched for money (as he was all his life), he shared a home with this woman he called “Mother” and cared for her the rest of her life. When she went into the nursing home for dementia, he visited her nearly if not every day.
- He was extraordinarily prepared for his passing
After recovering from a heart attack in 1963, Lewis wrote to a friend, “Tho’ I am by no means unhappy I can’t help feeling it was rather a pity I did revive in July. I mean, having been glided so painlessly up to the Gate it seems hard to have it shut in one’s face and know that the whole process must some day be gone thro’ again, and perhaps far less pleasantly! Poor Lazarus! But God knows best” (The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves, 1963). Hooper could not be more right in stating regarding his death, “No one was better prepared” (Readings for Meditation and Reflection).
In these ways and so many more, Lewis not only stepped out of the box of what was standard and accepted, but flung the whole flimsy box in the river and proceeded to write soundly against the soppy, wet thing it was.
Both in his writings and in his life, what a guy.