A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“Suppose I am writing a novel. I write ‘Mary laid down her work; next moment came a knock at the door!” For Mary who has to live in the imaginary time of my story there is not an interval between putting down the work and hearing the door. But I, who am Mary’s maker, do not live in that imaginary time at all. Between writing the first half of that sentence and the second, I might sit down for three hours and think steadily about Mary. I could think about Mary as if she were the only character in the book and for as long as I pleased, and the hours I spent in doing so would not appear in Mary’s time (the time inside the story) at all… God is not hurried along in the Time-stream of this universe any more than an author is hurried along in the time of his own novel. He has infinite attention to spare for each one of us (p. 167-168).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
The question that drove Lewis to this illustration was, “How can God hear, much less answer, the prayers of the whole world?” To put it in modern vernacular, “How does God ever get to the end of His inbox when everyone has His p-mail address?” (The “p” is for prayer.) That led to Lewis’ reflections on God and time.
What strikes me about this reflection is how innately and comprehensively I think of God as a larger and more powerful version of “me.” Often I am more prone to consider how the special powers of a marvel comic book hero would make their life different from mine than I am God’s uniqueness.
Think of the parallel this way. I am made in God’s image. A photograph or statue is made in my image. Even still, there are things I can do that a photo or statue cannot because they only reflect (and do not possess) certain of my attributes. Yes, they bear my image. No, they don’t have the same experience or perspective I have. Similarly, there are things about God that are beyond the scope of my experience because I am a finite creature bound by space, time, and fatigue.
This should spark awe, creativity, and humility. Awe is the speechless wonder that comes with knowing that whatever knowledge we have of God right now is only what our language and concepts will allow us to grasp. There is more about God in the Bible than we are capable of mining. The Bible is clear that it only scratches the surface (John 21:25). We have what is sufficient to know to bring us to where we can know God fully – heaven.
Creativity is the intersection of truth and confusion. Lewis knew that God promised to hear and answer every prayer. That truth overwhelmed him, because His view of God was incomplete. This led him to think, read Scripture, read theology, and imagine (a part of meditation on Scripture). Lewis wanted to be able to put God into words, as best he could, not to control God, but to give Him more informed worship and remove intellectual barriers for skeptics.
Humility is the response to greatness and protection of creativity. A brilliant mind like that of C.S. Lewis could easily become pridefully infatuated with the worlds it could create and the riddles it could solve. But that is unless the object of its creativity was so great that each mystery solved led to a more intimate relationship with a God so great that new, more intoxicating mysteries emerged.
These would be the “take away” from this quote. First, do not limit God to a larger version of your experience. Second, live in awe (not shame or futility) about the greatness of God. Third, allow for sanctified creativity (meditation) as you read Scripture and good Christian books. Fourth, savor humility as the virtue that allows each new facet of God to take you deeper into the next.