(Quick intro – I’m super excited to have Wesley from Library Educated guest post today! I hope you enjoy!)
When Jamie asked me to guest post for Inklings Week my first two thoughts were “Well of course I want in on Inklings Week!” and “I can talk about C.S. for hours, this will be the easiest post I write all year.” That last one turned out to not be true. After a couple of false starts I decided the best thing for me to share with you is what brought me to C.S. Lewis as a young lady and why I’ve stayed with him as an adult.
When I was a little girl I distinctly remember reading The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe. I remember thinking that it was exciting and not too scary. I eventually read the whole Narnia series, though none of the memories are as clear as reading about Aslan for the first time. After finishing the series I walked away from C.S. Lewis’ work for a long time. I knew that he had written other books, but I didn’t think I’d be very interested. The way that people talked about Lewis, in these hallowed almost hushed tones; and the way people quoted him I figured that his non-fiction, theological books would be heavy, dense reads. (Which was a dumb assumption, but you know what happens when you assume…)
One bored summer during high school my mom suggested I pick up The Screwtape Letters. A conversation between demons sounded interesting enough but sometimes I don’t do well with books that are formatted as letters (a.k.a epistolary books), but I gave it a shot. For those who aren’t familiar with this work, I’ll give a quick summary (or you can check out my review of it here or Jamie’s Inklings group discussion of it here.)
Demons of hell who are “tempters” are each assigned a human target (referred to in the book as the Patient). Their goal is to keep their target away from knowledge of God’s salvation and forgiveness until he is firmly in their camp with The Father Below (Satan). Screwtape is the rookie tempter who is assigned the Patient, but he gets some “loving” guidance from his uncle Wormwood. Screwtape thinks he’s doing a better job than he is actually doing, and his uncle gets increasingly frustrated with his screw ups (he actually gets so angry he turns into a centipede, because, in hell those things happen). Luckily, despite Screwtape’s best efforts the Patient holds strong to his Christianity and at the time of his death is welcomed into heaven. We don’t know exactly what happens to Screwtape but we know it’s not good. Being too lippy is not good in any job, especially if your boss is the actual Devil.
Reading Screwtape Letters opened up C.S. Lewis for me beyond Narnia. All the assumptions that I had made about his works were wrong. Lewis is funny; in a dry, witty, British way. It pops out when you least expect it but it’s always a delight. Lewis makes things approachable; he talks about theology and big religious concepts in a way that you can understand, but also he doesn’t talk down to you. The thing that gives me the most joy and peace when I read Lewis’ work is the sense of not being alone. Sometimes when he writes about a struggle he has I see my own struggle. Although faith is a very individual thing a lot of the struggles and joys are universal, and there is something comforting about that to me. I think Screwtape Letters is a great introduction to Lewis’ other works, though I encourage you to read everything that he has to offer!
Thank you so much Wesley! What about you readers – what book introduced to Tolkien or Lewis (or another favorite author)?