- "The Christian way is different: harder and easier. Christ says, "Give me All. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours."'
- "Both harder and easier than what we are all trying to do. You have noticed, I expect, that Christ Himself sometimes describes the Christian way as very hard, sometimes as very easy. He says, "Take up your Cross"—in other words, it is like going to be beaten to death in a concentration camp. Next minute he says, "My yoke is easy and my burden light." He means both. And one can just see why both are true" (CS Lewis, an excerpt from "Mere Christianity", from Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups, edited by Richard J Foster and James Bryan Smith, page 8).
As CS Lewis explains in Mere Christianity, self effort and trying to be good do not work. Our old self has to die and be buried, and we can't keep trying to resurrect the corpse. We need a total surrender and an utter abandonment. The cost of discipleship in some ways is steep, but the cost of non-discipleship is steeper. As Lewis argues, sometimes our spiritual laziness, as we attempt to hold onto our natural selves, means we have more and harder work in the long run. We also have a lack of satisfaction and joy in our lives. The more we try to preserve ourselves and fight for happiness, and the more we try to direct our own lives, the more difficult time we have of it. We either give up our fight to be "good" or we become desperately unhappy people with martyr complexes. We try to make a compromise in our "half-measures" that just doesn't work.
When we come to an end of ourselves, however, and "put on the new self," as the apostle Paul phrases it, we are free to become what Lewis calls "a little Christ" (10), which for him is the ultimate purpose of the church and of the whole of Christianity. This is what we have been created for. We are made to become a gift for the Father, as he puts it, "that present which is Himself and therefore us in Him" (10). It is then we awaken to the light of day and our whole purpose for living.
I love the analogy Lewis uses to illustrate this concept. He says we are like eggs who must turn into birds. It may be difficult to hatch and later to learn how to fly, but it is a lot harder to remain an egg forever. We must either hatch or we will ultimately pass our expiry date and go bad. In the same way, we have to die to our "natural selves" in order to come into the abundant life Christ speaks of.
We must count the cost of discipleship, and then take what seems like a big risk. It requires courage to come to that decision to surrender, but the rewards far outweigh anything we give up in the process. I don't know about you, but I am looking forward to that moment of weightlessness and glorious strength, as I learn to "soar on wings as eagles."
|My beautiful sister and her fiancee.|
|Down by the river on August 25th.|
|The birthday boy and Mike.|
|My parents posing in Mike's lovely kitchen.|
|After wading and before skipping stones.|