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From the Spring 2013 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

A Grief Observed

by Jana Harmon
Teaching Fellow, C.S. Lewis Institute–Atlanta

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  All things are not perfectly clear, but Lewis appreciates that God’s ways are higher, that God’s presence and peace remains with us through our struggles. He sees that he might have been guilty of putting H. before God. He encounters intimacy without emotion and finds it to be enough, even better somehow, clearer, more honest. “Above all, solid. Utterly reliable. Firm.”10
  In reflection, it is striking to me to see the importance of balancing reason, passions, and the imagination. A sudden flood of emotions can drive like a runaway train, fueled by imaginings, leaving rationality on the tracks far behind. The reality of life becomes twisted by our self-absorbed desires, our emotional neediness, our longing for something or someone different from what they are. It can distort what we knew beforehand to be true. Emotions run unchecked. Imaginations move into fantasy. We move from painting realism in our minds to impressionism, in some cases, moving toward the abstract. Reality becomes no longer recognizable, with no grounding except for the self. Subjectivism moves toward its fullest manifestation. We become entombed in our own whirling sense of what we desire, what we wish to be true. “Reality doesn’t match our desires, so we bend our desires to meet our own sense of truth.”11
  Certainly we meet the circumstances of life with both heart and mind. We are depraved and finite. We encounter our own personal reality within the larger context of what is real, what is true of God, of the world, of others, of ourselves. But sometimes reality is hard to face. We wish it were other than it is. We end up creating God or others in our own image instead of knowing and loving and experiencing them as they are. We create an alternate world that is more attuned to our passions and imaginings than to reality. Reality, though, is a sobering stalwart revealer of truth. It reminds us that we are more than our desirings, that external reality is not as we can contrive it to be, that there is something or someone Other who brings sense, who brings healing to our circumstance. When our emotions and our eyes clear, we see that things are as they need to be.
  Lewis, who was long steeped in rationality and imagination, found sentimentality afresh in Joy. When she was taken, this reasonable man found himself succumbing to an exaggerated emotionality, tipped beyond reason. Even though he searched for sobriety of thought, it evaded him during his early process of grief. We are all susceptible to this tipping, to this overcoming of emotion. We see our own vulnerability in moments of pain, of loss, of desire. But, like Lewis, we need to look to the reality of an unchanging God who loves us in the midst of our pain even though we may not see Him or feel Him. We need not to neglect the reality of God’s past faithfulness and ongoing presence and overriding purposes in our lives. “Truth at any price” ends in contentment, in resting. It ultimately reveals that God sees us through the valley, stronger, clearer, knowing more fully the depth of His love for us. “All shall be well.”

1. Douglas Gresham, Introduction to C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (1961; repr., San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), xx.
2. Gresham, Introduction to Lewis, A Grief Observed, xxx–xxxi.
3. Lewis, A Grief Observed, 4.
4. Ibid., 30.
5. Ibid., 28.
6. Ibid., 37.
7. Ibid., 64.
8. Ibid., 65, “All shall be well,” quoting Julian of Norwich.
9. Ibid., 66–67.
10. Ibid., 75.
11. Os Guinness, “The Thinking Man’s Journey,” Veritas Forum, Ashville, NC (1995) “Either we conform our desires to the truth, or we conform the truth to our desires.”

Jana Harmon is currently a Teaching Fellow and has served on the Ministry Team and Board of the C.S. Lewis Institute - Atlanta since 2008. She leads Apologetics Forums for women around the Atlanta area addressing tough questions confronting the Christian faith, affirming the historic Christian world view. Jana holds a M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, La Mirada, CA and a M.S. in Commu¬nication Disorders from the University of Texas at Dallas.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE:  Knowing & Doing is published by C.S. Lewis Institute; 8001 Braddock Road, Suite 301; Springfield, VA 22151. Portions of the publication may be reproduced for noncommercial, local church or ministry use without prior permission. Electronic copies of the PDF files may be duplicated and transmitted via e-mail for personal and church use. Articles may not be modified without prior written permission of the Institute. For questions, contact the Institute: 703.914.5602 or email us.
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