Saturday, March 17, 2012

Learning anew

A couple of weeks ago in church I was looking at the morning program and saw a piece about a guy who was presenting a 6-week study for men on the life and writings of C.S. Lewis. As a longtime student and devotee of Lewis and his writing, I thought I should at least give it a try. I put it on my calendar.

It has been a long time since I have been to a men's group at church. Through the years I have been a part of a number of them but a few years ago I unofficially gave them up.  I say unofficially because there was no big epiphany or anything where I said, "I am done with all of this."  I was just weary of some of it and decided to exit that type of fellowship -- men's small groups, retreats, etc. -- for at least the time being. I can't even remember the last time I went to anything of that kind but I'm guessing it's been about 12 years.

The curriculum often followed by small groups for men in church has to do with "biblical manhood" or something along those lines.  What I found was that I often found myself not having a lot in common with the man that was being described.  At first it bothered me but then I decided that, as long as I was still seeking God, I didn't need to worry about it.

When I saw the little blurb about the class on C.S. Lewis, though, I was immediately interested, although with some hesitancy.

I told Wife the night before the first session that I was skeptical and if it was just a bunch of guys sitting around talking about what a particular Lewis book meant to them, or how C.S. Lewis was really the prototypical  "wild" man supposedly described in the Bible, a la the main character from Brave Heart (the script of which I believe might eventually be added to the canon and alter biblical history forever if some people have their way), I was out of there. 

In her usual infinite wisdom, she told me I had nothing to lose by going to the first meeting and seeing what it was about.

I've been to three now and it is a breath of heaven for me. The man who is leading it did graduate work on Lewis and knows his stuff. He asked us at the first meeting to choose a C.S. Lewis book and read it over the course of the next six weeks and, if we so choose, we may read something from that book to the group during the first 10-15 minutes of the class. After that, it's a lecture format, and the leader follows a handout he gives us each week.

I like it because it's real meaty stuff that we are learning and, although I appreciate the needs of others, we don't spend time sharing about our lives, feelings, prayer requests, supposedly manly movies, struggles with lust, etc. There is a time and place for that, but this is clearly a class with a teacher and students, we are singularly focused and the time is valuable.

The first week was an overview of Lewis's life; the last two have been about his conversion to Christianity.  The next three will be about the apologetics, and his views of heaven and hell.

I dusted off my old, dog-eared copy of Mere Christianity, Lewis's classic defense of the faith, many parts of which were excerpted from radio addresses he did in England back in the 1940s. I have read this book a number of times but it's been a while and I'm finding all kinds of new gold nuggets on which to ponder.

I am so glad I got over my cynicism/skepticism and decided to go to this class. I know I'll be sorry when it's over.

The following has always been my favorite passage from Mere Christianity, which is actually a paraphrase from one of Lewis's favorite writers, George McDonald. It's from the chapter titled "Counting the Cost." This is what I'll probably read to the class during one of the remaining sessions:

Imagine yourself as a living house.  God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing.  He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is he up to?  The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of -- throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.  You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.  He intends to come and live in it Himself.


Kelly said...

I'm glad you decided to go and that it has turned out to be a positive experience.

Thank you for sharing the excerpt. It's been years since I read the majority of his works and actually have one on my shelf that I never got to. You make me want to read it and pull out all the others again. Not really light reading, though, as Lewis always makes me think!

Pencil Writer said...

So glad you posted this. I, too, am a great fan of C. S. Lewis! I bought Mere Christianity once years ago and began being amazed. Then, I loaned it to someone who must have been more amazed and I realized some time later that I failed to get it back. I will get another copy and begin again. As Kelly mentioned, Lewis makes me think, as well. I absolutely LOVE his clear understanding of many of the things of God! He just nails it! (them). Thanks for reminding me that I need to get another copy and soak in his very deep understanding of things most important. I believe the man was inspired and diligent in gleaning--through his life experience--some crystal clear vision of true Christianity. (Love the passage you quoted--every time I hear/read it.)

LaneyD said...

Glad you are attending that. We can't get too much aid in the knowledge of our Christian faith.

Steve H. said...


I think you and I have spoke before about our mutual hesitancy of "Men's Groups".

I'm jealous of the Lewis class...wish I could join you

Debby said...

Your wife sounds like a very sensible woman, Bob! :)

quid said...

Wonderful post. I loved the metaphorical quote at the end the most!


Hal Johnson said...

Great post, Bob.