The Story of C. S. Lewis


   On November 29, 1898, one of my favorite authors was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I wonder if his parents had any idea that their new baby boy would become one of the most-read Christian authors of all time. They named him Clive Staples Lewis, but when he was a small boy, he announced that his name was now “Jacksie.” He was known to family and friends as “Jack” until his death, so that’s what I’ll call him.
   Jack’s early childhood was happy. He lived in a large house out in the country, and loved to explore both indoors and outdoors with his older brother Warren, whom he nicknamed “Warnie.” Jack and Warren both enjoyed reading, writing, and drawing from a very young age. Jack had a vivid imagination, inspired in part by the fairy tales told him by his Irish nurse, Lizzie. His mother homeschooled him until he was ten years old. Then she died.
   His mother’s death was crushing to young Jack. He’d prayed that she would live, and yet she hadn’t.
   And soon another blow came. Jack’s father sent him to boarding school in England.
   The first boarding school was horrible. The headmaster was insane, often punishing the boys for no good reason, and teaching them very little. Jack was eventually sent to a different school and had more bad experiences, but some good times, too.
   Finally, in his late teens, he was sent to be tutored by Professor Kirkpatrick. Those days were happy. He enjoyed learning Greek along with a variety of other subjects, read lots of books, drank tea, and took long walks in the country. And still he used his imagination. When he was sixteen, an image came into his head of a faun (a mythological creature that has goat’s legs and a man’s head and torso) carrying an armful of packages in a snowy wood. Later, that image became the beginning of a children’s fantasy that has been read and loved by millions of people around the world. But I’ll tell you about that later. Jack studied with Professor Kirkpatrick until he went to Oxford University.
   Then World War I came. Like so many other young men, Jack joined the army and saw the brutalities of war firsthand. A shrapnel wound turned out to actually be a blessing because it meant he could leave the battlefield.
   After his time in the military, Jack continued his studies and eventually became a respected teacher at Oxford. When he was younger, he would have said he believed in God and had prayed and attended church. Now he considered himself an atheist. But God wasn’t done with Jack.
   Jack began to realize that most of his favorite authors were Christians. He met men at Oxford—including J. R. R. Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings—who were instrumental in bringing him to Christ. Slowly, Jack was losing his faith in atheism.
   And one day, while riding in the sidecar of his brother’s motorcycle on their way to the zoo, something happened. He couldn’t explain it precisely, but somehow when he’d left that morning, he did not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and when they reached the zoo he did. Later, he knelt in his room and prayed. That was a turning point in his life.
   Jack realized that all his life he had been searching for something—for joy. He could look back and see instances when he’d experienced that deep longing for joy. Now he understood that it was a longing for God and a longing for Heaven.
   He’d loved writing since he was a young boy, and now he began to write books on Christianity, as well as some on literature.
   During World War II, he delivered a series of broadcast talks on Christianity that later became the classic book: Mere Christianity. Also during the war, he opened his large country home to children who had been evacuated from their city homes because of the Nazi air raids.
   That experience led him to write the children’s fantasy I mentioned earlier: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The book tells of four siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy—who had to leave their home in London and stay with an old professor in the country. A wardrobe in a spare room of the house turned out to be the doorway to a magical land where first Lucy went and met a faun carrying packages in a snowy forest. Later, all four children found their way into the wondrous land called Narnia where they helped defeat the evil White Witch.
   But the most important part of the story? The great Lion, Aslan. He “came bounding into it,” Jack wrote, and “He pulled the whole story together…” In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Aslan was killed on the stone table in a traitor’s stead and then rose again. Six other Narnia books followed. In The Magician’s Nephew, we see Aslan create the world by His song. In my personal favorite Narnia book, The Horse and His Boy, we see a beautiful picture of providence in how Aslan orchestrates the events. Jack, or C. S. Lewis, as he became known as an author, said that The Chronicles of Narnia were not strictly allegory, but a “supposal”. It was “supposing” that there was another world, and Jesus Christ manifested Himself in that world, as He has really done in ours.
   In the midst of writing the Narnia books, Jack met an American lady named Joy Davidman Gresham and her two young sons, David and Douglas. He dedicated The Horse and His Boy to the boys who would later become his stepsons. When Joy’s husband divorced her, she moved to England. But the fact that she wasn’t a British citizen prevented her from staying in England and working. Jack thought it his Christian duty to legally marry her so she wouldn’t have to leave. Though legally married now, Jack told no one, and they simply acted as friends.
   But then Joy became very sick. She had cancer, and while she was in the hospital, Jack realized he loved her. A minister came to the hospital and performed the marriage ceremony. Joy seemed to be getting better, and she and Jack had a blissful few years before she grew ill again and died. His wife’s death was another huge blow to Jack. But though he grieved deeply, it didn’t crush his faith. He recovered, and continued to write, speak, and teach. He had become a professor of English literature at Cambridge University, and he held that position until shortly before his death in 1963.


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