Shadowlands. Have you seen it? Did you know there are two? I just saw the original (prior to Anthony Hopkins). Apparently, it is more accurate than the latter version–and more powerful.
It’s about CS Lewis, the famous theologian. Maybe you have heard of The Lion, The Witch, The Wardrobe, or Screwtape Letters, or maybe Mere Christianity. Few books are worth reading twice. All of Lewis’ books are.
But one book you may not know is A Grief Observed, written after Lewis’ wife died of cancer. He married late, she died early. A brilliant man tries to sort through his emotions, which in his words, “are a mess.” And he is right. He’s perplexed because he can’t reason his way out, his logic inadequate, his intellect rendered useless. He is simply emotion. Faith even—inadequate. Words fail him. The God he knew, the world he lived in are so far from him. He is a stranger, a sojourner.
One thing rings true for him. One thing remains. He lives in a world of shadows; the real world is yet to come. And because of this, his belief in God holds fast. But it’s only after he sits by a little boy, his step-son who has lost his mother and now withdraws from the world that Jack (C.S. Lewis) reconnects.
You see, Jack lost his mother at age nine. But he doesn’t know what to say, he doesn’t know what to do so he sits down next to the boy. This old man, one of the greatest minds of the 20th century is sitting next to a sad small boy and can’t come up with adequate words. He simply says, “I love her, I love her so much.” The lad looks up and sees his father has no answers. The old man puts his arm around his charge and together they cry. And not just a tear rolling down his cheek but a heaving, from the belly cry, the kind that hurt the chest and leave you wanting.
It’s real. It really happened. What makes it so real, what makes it so powerful, is a simple truth. It’s still happening.
A husband and wife drive home in silence. A battle well fought. The will is not broken but the body is. No longer can it process the poisons that have been pumped in for more than a half-decade. The earthly body becomes a shadow, the real body in all its glory awaits.
In in her last moments, Joy Lewis looked not to her theologian, she looked to Jesus.
Today both Jack and Joy are free from their shadows but his words and his life live on. He says in the final paragraphs of his little book, A Grief Observed, “God sees because he loves.”
In grief it seems as if God stops seeing us. He’s somehow forgotten us. Surely, he forgot the one that died, we think. We simply stop seeing God for who he is. We no longer recognize him. How could he, how could he, we wonder, how could he?
Lewis feels the same way, he looks at the irony that when we are most happy, we don’t look to God but when we are most in need it is as if he no longer looks at us. Grief, he says is like fear, but he isn’t afraid. He sees his tears as honest outpourings but hates the fact he has become self-loathing. He embraces his laziness, no longer seeing the need for a razor, not even bothering to reach for a blanket in the cold of the night.
His real account is quite different from his earlier submission, The Problem of Pain. In it, he is an academic. In A Grief Observed he is but a man.
And that’s what grief does. It makes us real. It strips us from everything we’ve done, it breaks us down to what we are- mere men, mere women. I invite you to read A Grief Observed, but only if promise to read Mere Christianity. Then I fear you will have an even greater appreciation of the shadowlands in which we live.
I also invite you to read my book, When Sunday Smiled, and now it has it’s own inspirational song and is a Finalist for Best Christian Memoir. It’s for people who have lost their way in this world. Check out both on my website, Andymdavidson.com