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Thursday, September 21, 2006

cover of The Great Divorce

Another Lewis classic. The story of a dream. A man who finds himself in a grey dreary town (between the sunset and full night), waiting for a bus. This bus will take them to the other place (heaven) for a visit. And if they'd like, they can stay. Our narrator interacts with many characters and also observes other interactions which give insight into this place and the people who exist there. Lewis makes it very clear this is not what heaven is really like, but simply some ideas to affect the way we live now.

One phrase which rings throughout the book is that hell and those who live there are 'so nearly nothing.' The people have become the worst parts of themselves and lost all good (or almost all in some cases). The narrator has a hard time understanding this, so his Teacher, or companion, in heaven tries to show that good must in the end overcome evil. That evil cannot be larger than good. That good is much better at being fully good than evil -- so heaven must be incomparably bigger. Nobody from heaven could go into hell even if they wanted to because it is too small. A tiny crack in the ground.

One idea that keeps returning to the forefront of my understanding of what it means to be a Christ-follower is that of naming. God names us -- He calls out the true person. By choosing to follow Him and be obedient to Him, I do not become less myself -- but somehow more myself. I become more solid, more real, deeper. Not because of anything that I am doing, but because God is all the time changing me to be more like Himself -- and more like the person He created me to be. For instance, one woman our narrator observes finds all her value in 'caring for' (aka controlling) someone else. She cannot believe that she or this person she wants to 'care for' have any value simply because of who they are or who they were made to be. she wants to earn her worth. It's not possible. One heaven dweller says 'everything is here for the asking and nothing can be bought.' (p28)

Lewis has such a way of putting large ideas into comprehensible ideas, that his works are entertaining to read but also dredge up questions long forgotten or never asked. It's easy to get caught up in the daily tasks of life and enjoying the present moment (or surviving it, perhaps). But life can be so much more than that - living today in light of what has happened and what is to come. Not just events of yesterday, but the Event -- God coming in the form of a man to save humanity and bring us back into right relationship with Him. When the fact of God's love is allowed to affect each day (and parts of each day, as it becomes more natural), the simple tasks of today are seen to have eternal affect. Which is intimidating and frustrating and exciting.

Title:The Great Divorce
Author:C.S. Lewis
Date published:1946
Number of pages:146
Notes:repeat reading


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