A Garden Full of Adventure
Jack jumped out from behind the hedge. "You can't catch me, Warnie," he yelled as he took off running as fast as he could.
"Gotcha!" Warnie exclaimed as he grabbed Jack and tackled him to the ground in the garden behind their house. Warnie was three years older than his brother and much stronger. But Jack was feisty. He wriggled from Warnie's grasp and took off running again.
By the time Warnie rounded the corner, Jack was nowhere in sight. He looked in all of Jack's usual hiding places, but could not find him. Finally, he lay down to rest under the old apple tree. The giggling from above told him his little brother now had a new hiding place.
"Let's play something new," called Warnie. "I just saw a band of pirates camping behind the blackberry bushes! Let's get 'em!" Jack nearly flew down from the tree in anticipation of catching the imaginary pirates with his brother. There was always a new adventure to be found in the garden.
A New Kind of Adventure
Memories of those happy times with Warnie warmed Jack's heart after Warnie left for boarding school. One afternoon, seven-year-old Clive Staples (C.S.) Lewis, who preferred the nickname Jack, stood alone trying to decide what to read. It was a rainy, dismal day, and heavy fog blanketed the Irish hills, keeping him inside yet again. Jack's problem was that he had too many choices. There were books in the study, books in the dining room, books in the cloakroom and in the bedrooms. In the attic, books were piled as high as Jack's shoulders, causing his indecision. How could he choose between the adventure of Gulliver's Travels and playing detective with Sherlock Holmes?
Warnie's absence may have left Jack feeling lonesome, but his imagination continued to blossom. Jack was writing and illustrating his own stories when he wasn't getting lost between the pages of great books. They were full of talking animals and knights in shining armor. His imaginary world was so exciting the real world could not compete.
Disappointment with God
Three years after Warnie went away to school, Jack's mother became sick with cancer. Jack prayed as he had never prayed before that God would spare his mother's life.
"Dear God, please don't let my mother die! We love her so much and need her with us. I know she's very sick, but my Sunday school teacher says that you can do anything. I'm sure you can make Mama better. Please, God!"
But God did not answer this prayer the way Jack wanted. Not only did his beloved mother die, but his father, Albert, never recovered from her death. In his anguish, Albert spent little time with his grieving sons. Jack and Warnie's happy family life was changed forever. Jack decided that the God who allowed his mother to die was either cruel or uncaring. Either way, he didn't want anything to do with such a God. He decided to become an atheist.
The Influence of Lewis' Friends
In 1917, Jack Lewis became a student at Oxford. He thrived in this atmosphere of learning and debate and continued reading anything he could get his hands on. Academic life was for him! Eventually, he came across the writings of Christian authors George MacDonald and G.K. Chesterton. Their writings began Jack's spiritual awakening. His Christian friends, like Owen Barfield, challenged Jack's atheism.
"Jack, how can you still believe that God doesn't exist?" Owen asked. "Chesterton's books say the world only makes sense if you believe God created it. Even our conscience points to a creator. We would have no sense of right and wrong if we just evolved."
"Owen, I understand Chesterton's logic, but I can't accept the existence of a God who allows us to suffer. How can He be good or loving if He takes people from us and hurts us for no reason?"
"But Jack, you can't say He does things for no reason. You have to say that you don't know what His reasons are. Just because you don't know the reason doesn't mean God doesn't have a reason for what He does."
Jack's conversations with Owen gave him a lot to consider. He eventually decided that his author friends were right, and he could resist God no longer. Finally, in 1931, C. S. Lewis became a Christian.
Jack's new faith immediately affected his life. Already an accomplished author, Jack used his writing skills to present the case for Christianity to his atheist friends. He also used the creativity and imagination he had developed as a child to create fascinating stories that would teach spiritual truth to people of all ages.
Jack Tells a Story
"Uncle Jack! Uncle Jack! Tell me a story! Please?"
Lucy Barfield was actually Jack's goddaughter, not his niece, but who was he to argue?
"Well, Lucy, it was a cold winter day and a few inches of powdery snow had fallen to the ground. A little girl named Lucy stood beside a lamppost."
Lucy interrupted him. "Is that me, Uncle Jack? Is it me?"
"Of course, Lucy," Jack replied. "We can pretend it was you. You were standing beside the lamppost and what did you see come walking by?"
"A dinosaur?" said Lucy hopefully.
"No, I don't think so. Too big. Let's see--you were standing there beside a lamppost at the edge of an enchanted forest."
Lucy interrupted again. "How did I get there? Where is the enchanted forest?"
"Hmm--I think the enchanted forest is in the far-off country of Narnia. You got there through a secret passage in a magical wardrobe. The first thing you saw was a faun who walked by, muttering to himself. He had an umbrella in one hand and several packages tucked under his other arm.
"But Uncle Jack, what's a faun?" Lucy asked, her voice confused.
The Chronicles of Narnia
The first chapter of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe answers Lucy's question. This first book of C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia was dedicated to his goddaughter Lucy Barfield. Lucy was the daughter of Owen Barfield, the friend who helped Jack see the truth about God. The stories of Narnia (seven in all) were intended to entertain children, but Jack wanted them to be more than just entertainment. Generations of children and adults worldwide have learned spiritual truths through Jack's magical world of Narnia.
Several of the Chronicles have been made into movies, and a movie, Shadowlands, has also been made about C. S. Lewis and his wife Joy. Joy died of cancer only four years after she and Jack were married. Unlike his mother's death, Joy's death did not cause him to deny the existence of God. Although the pain of Joy's death was overwhelming, Jack clung to the faith he had defended for decades.
Make It Real! Questions to make you dig a little deeper and think a little harder.
1. What is your favorite rainy-day activity? How did Jack's rainy day fun help to prepare him for his life's work?
2. People come to faith in Jesus in many different ways. What was the key to helping C.S. Lewis believe in God and become a Christian? How about you? What has helped you to understand God better?
3. When Jack was an atheist, his Christian friends helped point him to God. If you had an atheist friend, what could you say to help him or her believe in God?
4. If you have read C. S. Lewis' Narnia books, think about the different characters and events in the books. What spiritual lessons have you taken from these books?
The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis (Zondervan)
("C. S. Lewis: An Adventure in Faith" published on Christianity.com on July 19, 2010)