Title: Surprised by Joy
Author: C.S. Lewis
I don’t remember when C.S. Lewis was not a part of my life. Really, I don’t. I am sure at one point in time, possibly even recently, I may have remembered that first moment that I discovered the world beyond the wardrobe – but I can no longer recall it’s newness. I only have the strong sense of having always been to Narnia before. I can only remember various occasions that I visited, like a beloved vacation spot that has become home.
But now I am a grown up, and often when I have a longing for Lewis and his darling brain, I dive into his grown up things. It started with The Screwtape Letters, which I read for the first time in high school or so. Then I moved onto Til We Have Faces, kudos to a fellow named Brian Franklin, who somehow got that into my hands although I don’t recall by what means. Then, finally, most recently, I really started to grow up… and I started reading his nonfiction.
In my mid-twenties I picked up Mere Christianity. Something I wanted to read together as a family. I think I was newly pregnant. I recall being pregnant, maybe, but I don’t recall the big-as-a-house-belly. (After all, when you are pregnant, you are a house – literally – for the tiny human you are growing.) Either way, we read most of it aloud together, I think I ended up finishing the last half on my own, impatient for a conclusion. Now that I’m thinking of it, perhaps I wasn’t pregnant yet at all. Perhaps I just have a hard time imagining life without our little person, even in the memories she wasn’t present for…
So now, during a month of what Holly Golightly would refer to as The Mean Reds… during the stress of true adulthood… during moments when my brain (as the brain of the ‘creative’ is wont to do) attempts to dive into a deep melancholy… I have picked up Surprised By Joy: The Shape of My Early Life.
Am I suddenly ecstatic? Does Lewis propel me into a sanguine excitement, heart all a flutter with happiness? No. Not even close. But Lewis has reminded me what a lack of joy can really look like. He has reminded me that my joy is never truly gone – even when I don’t feel it.
Sitting here in the wee hours of dawn, because I couldn’t sleep, debating how soon I should brew my coffee while the sun just barely peeks up into the tree branches and a haze of Houston smog, I am with Lewis. I am with him at Wyvern and Chartres. I am with his father. I am with his atheistic sadness and in turn his Christian philosophies. I am with his love for fantasy, satyrs, heroes, and mythologies. I am with him in his distaste for other children and his desire to be alone, except for one good friend.
What I am not with? My own bad mood, which I like to call The Funk. Apparently, Holly, we all have silly names for it and I stopped borrowing yours long ago. Am I surprised that Lewis can scoop me from my mood, at least temporarily, with such ease? No. (Although I admit he had the aid of my daily endorphin dose… the morning kick of pushups and crunches…) Would I do almost anything for the most gorgeous set of leather bound C.S. Lewis books for sale at Good Books in the Woods? Probably, but if I had the money there would probably be a throw down for it in the parking lot between me and my Emily, but at least I know she’d share if she managed to win.