Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Way Through

. . . though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel (Micah 5:1-5).

Few things are more painful than hitting a wall – over and over again – in a relationship that we care deeply about. Were it not for our desire to ‘get through’ to someone, we would just stop and walk away.

But walking away isn’t an option. And so our collision with the wall continues.

Maybe you know about this. The wall may stand between you and one of your children; they simply won’t listen to your counsel or believe that what you say you say out of love. Quite often the wall stands between spouses, built brick by brick with years of hurt; now it stands there high and insurmountable. Walls like this are found between managers and employees, teachers and students. What all of these walls share in common is their foundation in this nagging question: What will it take to get through?

We are prone to use direct assault against those walls. We argue, insist, plead, promise. Nothing gives. The direct assault proves useless, leaving us with tears and sleepless nights.

C. S. Lewis, the man behind the Chronicles of Narnia, is known to most of us as an articulate defender of the Christian faith. If he wasn’t defending the faith, he was often explaining it intelligently to its critics. Lewis was skilled and powerful in argument. He gained a reputation at Oxford for being ruthless in debate. The book most closely associated with his name is Mere Christianity, a volume that remains widely used in presenting the faith to sceptics.

Given Lewis’s legacy as an apologist and his gifts for razor sharp reasoning and argumentation, it is somewhat surprising that he openly cautioned others against theological debate and argument. Lewis once wrote, “No doctrine of the Faith seems to me so spectral, so unreal as one that I have just successfully defended in public debate . . . we apologists take our lives in our hands and can be saved only falling back continually . . . from apologetics to Christ himself.”

Thus Lewis, toward the end of his life, set aside the task of writing arguments for the Christian faith and turned to stories. In a 1954 letter Lewis stated that “the imaginative man in me is older.” The poet in Lewis was there long before the books of apologetics. And the poet was never entirely absent from him, even in those works.

Lewis was drawn to a vision of the Christian life, not simply arguments for it.

So what does this have to do with you and your desire to ‘get through’ to someone you love? Maybe Lewis teaches us that whatever it is we want to say or tell to someone must also be lived and shown. Sometimes the way through is indirect, quietly lived rather than shouted, shown rather than explained. It is left-handed power.

What is your vision of how things would look if you could get through to the person you love? How can you begin living that vision today?

Merciful God, grant me grace to show what I’ve tried hard to say; to demonstrate what I’ve sought to explain. Grant to me a vision and help me to live it, I ask in Jesus’s name. Amen.

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