(In honor of the Narnia movie, which I saw this weekend and loved, I went looking for a quotation from C.S. Lewis to use in a post. I found so many that I decided to center the post around them; every quotation here is from him.)
No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.
Sometimes when the inception of a new cycle has informed me of the fruitlessness of the preceding one, grief will stop me for a moment. These moments are the emptiest I’ve experienced; I do nothing in them except shudder in tears. But it occurred to me at the last one – yesterday – that these moments are not sadness, they are fear. In my deepest grief I do not mourn the fruitlessness of my hopes for a child, I fear the fruitlessness of hope itself. This small thing, so longed-for, has not come, and for a moment I am frozen in fear that no things longed-for will ever come. My life is a constant longing for ultimate joy in God, and the tiny atheism that is the fear in those moments is enough violence to split my soul wide open. I know what Lewis means about grief feeling like fear; the grief of my unfulfilled hopes brings the fear that God does not love me. That is the only thing worth fearing, but also the one thing which my existence proves I need never fear.
We're not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.
Blessedly, the grace of the One who holds me in being always calls me back from my fear. I trust him; I don’t doubt that he will do the best for me. But that does not mean I refrain from asking him to show me what he is doing, to help me understand. I beg him, also, to find another way if it is possible. (Christ himself did that begging in the garden after the Last Supper, so I figure I may do it as well.)
We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, “Blessed are they that mourn.”
As much as I know that begging for relief is absolutely right, I also get another message in my reading and prayer: embrace the suffering. Don’t let it go to waste. And so I’ve adopted a prayer of my own which I repeat in the hardest moments, not because I want to but because I know it is right. Lord, I say, thank you for knowing better than I do what is best for me, and thank you for giving me exactly what I need. Please use this to make me the person you will me to be. And the funny thing is, as hard as this prayer is to say, I can feel the blessing in it even as I say it. I always imagined that those mentioned in the beautitude were blessed by their mourning only in the morning that followed their night of suffering, but I am learning as I walk here that glimmers of light can come before the darkness lifts.
The great thing is, if one can, to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions in one's "own" or "real" life. The truth is, of course, that what one regards as interruptions are precisely one's life.
In an article I read last spring, George Weigel wrote of Benedict XVI, “We can be sure that he will challenge us all to the noble human adventure that has no better name than sanctity.” The phrase has stuck with me; it’s exactly the reminder I need that life’s adventure is not one particular activity – college, marriage, motherhood (all things to which I have looked or do look forward) – but rather the path to heaven, the path to perfection. Infertility so often feels like an interruption, a pause in the journey I always imagined my life would be, but every one of these waiting moments is forming me. I do not want to waste them by refusing to appreciate that.
The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is the hand over your whole self--all your wishes and precautions--to Christ.
Lately, I’ve been feeling a quiet call to hope, and it wasn’t until I started focusing on that call that I realized how instinctively I cling to my precautions. I am afraid of real hope, afraid to expose myself to the danger of handing myself over. I have often spoken blithely of surrender, but Lewis is right; it is terrible, and almost impossible. And yet, are not all the really worthwhile things terrible in their way? The terrible nature of surrender does not expose it as worthless or too hard, but rather proves it to be exactly what it is: absolutely essential.
Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.
I’ve written many times before about realizing I can never find perfect happiness in earthly things, but that truth is very easy to forget, and I need to be reminded almost constantly. It’s so easy to think that if I just achieve motherhood I will want for nothing else, but I’ve been down that road before with other longings, and I always find that when my desires are satisfied they are quickly replaced by new ones. When I am able to have faith in the permanent, I always find that the transient things fall into place much more easily than I expected. I haven’t gotten “earth thrown in” yet, but I know that Lewis is right about this one, and I know that making this truth a cornerstone of my living will serve me very well. Now, if only I could do it consistently.
The very nature of Joy makes nonsense of our common distinction between having and wanting.
I think it’s in The Great Divorce that Lewis writes of how our final destiny will color our lives as we have lived them, that those who find themselves in hell will see their whole lives on earth as merely a part of hell, and those who find themselves in heaven will understand their lives likewise. It’s a great consolation for me, the possibility that one day I will have an entirely different understanding of this time of wanting. Lewis’s take on joy rings true for me in the way only mysteries can, from that place in me where I have invited my Creator to take up residence. My words trip over each other trying to explain how I know it, but believe me when I say I know it wholeheartedly: suffering is only so that better joy may be.
God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
Enough said. I pray that every one of us may experience the happiness that is Himself as we celebrate the glory of His birth.