Melissa writes a post about it on her Hard-Core Christianity blog. I heartily endorse this post, and it represents my experience learning from C.S. Lewis’ writings as well.
Over the past year I’ve thought a great deal about the brevity of life when it is considered in the context of eternity. I’ve pondered this so often, in fact, I’ve begun thinking of my current mental preoccupation as a sort of mid-life crisis. I’ve felt God impressing this idea–of our temporal life being a precious drop in the bucket of time–upon me more and more, and I haven’t known quite what to do with the emotions and the thoughts that have surfaced. I wouldn’t call them negative or depressing; I’d describe them as mysterious, pulsing, non-yet-solidified. I suppose I should have realized before now that God was indeed taking me somewhere in the heavy yet gentle way only He operates.
HERE’S WHAT I AM COMING TO UNDERSTAND…
This is not just a life to be tolerated until we reach our eternal resting place. This is our single, fleeting opportunity to prepare ourselves for the day when we step out of these Shadowlands and into direct fellowship with God; everything we allow Him to build and nurture within us here will come to ultimate fruition and purposefulness in Heaven. A sobering thought, is it not?
My favorite analogy is that of a soldier being honed by battle after battle with the Enemy. Lewis says,
Christianity is the story of how the rightful King has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage…He wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job, and in first-class fighting trim.
Through temporal life, the soldier is consciously and intentionally growing wiser and more competent; when he finally presents himself to his beloved King, he will be sublimely outfitted for a purposeful place in the eternal Kingdom. Lewis continues:
…it is quite true that there will probably be no occasion for just or courageous acts in the next world, but there will be every occasion for being the sort of people that we can become only as the result of doing such acts here.
We live at a very special point in man’s history. We can stand on the shoulders of great Christian men and women who have much to teach us if we will but read and study their legacy. God has raised up great theologians, apologists, philosophers, writers, and artists to steer and inspire us, if we will only take notice. It boils down to how we choose to dedicate our time and energy.
I implore you, as my brothers and sisters in Christ: Learn about our faith. Understand the history of Christianity, the essential doctrines, and the historical and scientific support for the reliability of our Scripture. Open your mind and heart to what the Spirit wants to teach you. Use these lessons to recruit and help train fellow soldiers. We are preparing for the Kingdom to come!
And when you’re done with that, read this excerpt from Mere Christianity, entitled “The Obstinate Toy Soldiers”.
The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God… And the present state of things is this. The two kinds of life are now not only different (they would always have been that) but actually opposed.
The natural life in each of us is something self-centred, something that wants to be petted and admired, to take advantage of other lives, to exploit the whole universe. And especially it wants to be left to itself: to keep well away from anything better or stronger or higher than it, anything that might make it feel small. It is afraid of the light and air of the spiritual world, just as people who have been brought up to be dirty are afraid of a bath. And in a sense it is quite right It knows that if the spiritual life gets hold of it, all its self-centredness and self-will are going to be killed and it is ready to fight tooth and nail to avoid that.
Did you ever think, when you were a child, what fun it would be if your toys could come to life? Well suppose you could really have brought them to life. Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man. It would involve turning the tin into flesh. And suppose the tin soldier did not like it He is not interested in flesh; all he sees is that the tin is being spoilt He thinks you are killing him. He will do everything he can to prevent you. He will not be made into a man if he can help it.
What you would have done about that tin soldier I do not know. But what God did about us was this. The Second Person in God, the Son, became human Himself: was born into the world as an actual man-a real man of a particular height, with hair of a particular colour, speaking a particular language, weighing so many stone. The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a foetus inside a Woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.
The result of this was that you now had one man who really was what all men were intended to be: one man in whom the created life, derived from his Mother, allowed itself to be completely and perfectly turned into the begotten life. The natural human creature in Him was taken up fully into the divine Son. Thus in one instance humanity had, so to speak, arrived: had passed into the life of Christ. And because the whole difficulty for us is that the natural life has to be, in a sense, “killed,” He chose an earthly career which involved the killing of His human desires at every turn-poverty, misunderstanding from His own family, betrayal by one of His intimate friends, being jeered at and manhandled by the Police, and execution by torture. And then, after being thus killed-killed every day in a sense-the human creature in Him, because it was united to the divine Son, came to life again. The Man in Christ rose again: not only the God. That is the whole point For the first time we saw a real man. One tin soldier-real tin, just like the rest-had come fully and splendidly alive.
I think there are two ways to work at not being a tin soldier. 1) Reading apologetics books in order to be able to be a friend to God by telling people the truth about him, with evidence. Those shared experiences of you speaking up for your friend because you know what you are talking about get you out of your own desires and build a self-sacrificial friendship with him. And 2) Studying public square issues like abortion, divorce, marriage and so forth in order to articulate intelligent reasons why the Bible is correct in what it asserts about moral questions. The experience of talking to other people about economics, politics and foreign policy builds the relationship with God. And the more you know, the less freedom you have to make bad decisions – learning the truth about things is how you make doing evil unthinkable.
These are the good insights in C.S. Lewis books that help people who would like to become Christians to know how they are supposed to go about doing that. I have had non-Christian friends read them in order to understand at a practical level what Christianity is all about. These books are excellent to read when you are in high school and college. My favorites are “Mere Christianity”, “The Problem of Pain”, “God In the Dock”, “The Abolition of Man”, “The Great Divorce”, “The Four Loves”, “Miracles”, “Christian Reflections”, etc . I have never read the Narnia books, though. I also recommend that non-Christians all read the gospel of John as a snapshot of what Christianity is all about. You can read it in a few hours.
I would really recommend this lecture (MP3) by Walter Bradley as well, which is the best thing I have ever encountered about the Christian life. If you are not training hard, learning new things, and having people ask you questions about your faith every day, then you are doing it wrong – you need to get a intellectual/professional mentor and get moving forward. The normal Christian life is full of dangers and adventures! If you don’t look in the mirror every morning and see a heroic knight going out to try to slay dragons, then you are doing Christianity wrong.
By the way, if you are a Christian woman and you want to impress a Christian man, you need to talk about your Christian life to the man like Melissa does – with reference to books. Melissa is a particularly good example of how to behave because she is heavily into science apologetics. She is also fiscally conservative.