I wonder, if we each were able to choose one thing; a gift, a talent, a quality in which we might excel, in which we might be Truly Special, what would we choose? And how long would it be before we wished we had chosen differently?
But what if we are already Truly Special, in fact more special than we know?
This is the second of three short posts on the idea of our specialness. It comes from C S Lewis.
‘Niceness’—wholesome, integrated personality—is an excellent thing.
We must try by every medical, educational, economic, and political means in our power to produce a world where as many people as possible grow up ‘nice’; just as we must try to produce a world where all have plenty to eat. But we must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls.
A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world—and might even be more difficult to save.
For mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature.
Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game. But there may be a period, while the wings are just beginning to grow, when it cannot do so: and at that stage the lumps on the shoulders—no one could tell by looking at them that they are going to be wings—may even give it an awkward appearance.
From C S Lewis Mere Christianity
As a former school teacher (briefly) I identified with the dilemma of the straight-talking Dr Who when confronted with an obnoxious yet fragile (strange how so often these two go together) twelve-year-old demanding to know, ‘Are you telling me that I am not special?’
Here is the first of three brief posts to do with our not so sneaking suspicions that we are, at least I am, Special.
It comes from C.S.Lewis…
‘Thanks for yours of the 10th. I would prefer to combat the ‘I’m special’ feeling not by the thought ‘I’m no more special than anyone else’ but by the feeling ‘Everyone is as special as me.’ In one way there is no difference, I grant, for both remove the speciality. But there is a difference in another way. The first might lead you to think, ‘I’m only one of the crowd like anyone else’. But the second leads to the truth that there isn’t any crowd. No one is like anyone else. All are ‘members’ (organs) in the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). All different and all necessary to the whole and to one another: each loved by God individually, as if it were the only creature in existence. Otherwise you might get the idea that God is like the government which can only deal with the people as the mass.’
From The Collected letters of C.S.Lewis Volume III :
To Genia Goelz: On the reality of our individuality in the body of Christ; 20 June 1952
That I was taught first to say my bed-time prayers to ‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild‘, must
have affected my earliest impressions of him.
In my sheltered childhood, secure in a loving family, it made perfect sense to ask him to ‘look upon’ my littleness, ‘pity my simplicity‘ and ‘suffer me to come to’ him. But later, I would be even more pleased to find that he was just as willing to look upon my sinfulness, pity my humanity, and suffer to bring me to himself; and that his meekness was his strength reined in; his patience with my sinfulness.
This third brief post on the theme of evil comes from C.S.Lewis’ Mere Christianity.
“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.”
C.S.Lewis, Mere Christianity
In a 1995 film The Usual Suspects, super-villain Keyser Soze, in his guise as Verbal Kint, a smalltime criminal faking cerebral palsy, claims, ‘The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.’ …or maybe that he is the comic-horror figure of popular culture, working his evil on stormy nights and obvious to all because of his demonic appearance, possessed of horns and hooves. In this second of three brief posts on the theme of evil, C.S.Lewis reminds us that the devil is more devious than that, and more dangerous; and that he works just fine through ordinary men.
“I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of “Admin.” The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern.”
From C.S.Lewis The Screwtape Letters
Few people of faith, and not Christians alone, deny the existence of evil in the world, or even in themselves, though the behaviors and attitudes each chooses to label as evil probably varies greatly. If we have truly convinced ourselves that one man’s terrorist is simply another man’s hero, if we can only admit to the great evil(s) at work in ourselves and in the world, then we place ourselves at risk of denying the greatest good. This first of three short posts to do with the problem of evil comes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Christian confronted with the obviously evil and the temptation to ignore it for his own sake.
“We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds; we have been drenched by many storms; we have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretence; experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open; intolerable conflicts have worn us down and even made us cynical. Are we still of any use? What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes, or clever tacticians, but plain, honest, and straightforward men. Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves remorseless enough, for us to find our way back to simplicity and straightforwardness?”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer Letters and Papers from Prison