The Stories We Tell...
I went to a seminar last week on the long lost memoir of Warnie Lewis (C.S. Lewis' brother).
It was very informative
The lecturer rifled through a fat book of their personal letters, coming to well reasoned conclusions about the life and legacy of the brothers. She reminds us that Warnie was an author in his own right. She told us the story of Warnie’s conversion.
The questions began. What was Jack’s personal devotional life like? Warnie’s? What were theological beliefs the Lewises held but didn’t express publicly? The fellow in the green shirt in the corner questions the nature of Jack’s relationship with Mrs. Moore…was Warnie jealous? There is conjecture about whether their crazy school master was nicer to Warnie or Jack. It was Jack. Definitely Jack.
And then there was Warnie’s alcoholism. What was the cause? Was it the war? His mother’s early death? His natural temperament? Mrs. Moore? His relationship with his father? Wearily, we piece through the unearthed tapestry of their story, trying to follow faded threads.
But there were lovely bits too. The cheerful letter Jack sent to one of his Goddaughters on the day of her confirmation, and the playful jab at sending her the only kind of magic he seemed able to wield… a five pound note.
I walked home alone after that seminar. As the wind with its new autumn chill numbed my nose and tossed my hair, I wondered what the brother’s Lewis would have thought of all of us, sitting around with scholarly faces, engaging in the dialectic method about every detail of their bachelor lives. Did Jack ever feel, in the living of it, the weight his own life story would carry?
What a strange and wonderful thing to see a life laid out like a story at its end.
And then it struck me, like the blast of wind from the north sea I walked along:
My story has already begun.
Some of the ink on the pages of my life is already dry.
My story won’t begin someday in the future.
It won’t begin tomorrow.
It didn’t begin yesterday.
It began in a day I can’t remember, and stretches out before me till days I can’t see.
What story am I telling with one life of mine?
I wonder, in a hundred years, what a room of scholars bent over my journals, letters, and Facebook messages would come to think of me. If I’m honest, that’s actually a sort of horrifying thought. But I do not feel tethered by the opinions of such hypothetical people, and it is unlikely that not one will study my life like that. But, I think of the children I hope to have some day. I think of being old with my siblings, and looking back on life. I think of meeting God. And I wonder… what story will I have told with these few earthly days of mine?
The stories we tell with our lives matter.
We need look no further than the news cycles of the past week to confirm that theory.
They compound over the years, and give your story a colour, a shape, a taste. An aroma. A stench.
Choices have real impacts that cannot be wiped out with flippancy, forgetfulness, or bluster.
As my mentor often told me... God forgives, but wisdom doesn't.
The repercussions of our decisions, good or bad, echo into our lives, and the lives we touch.
This election season has played out like a morbid, almost comic, depressing moral story. It’s really quite distressing to dwell on. It is a wreaking mess of poorly told stories, and people trying to shake or ignore the sin that has shaped the story of most of their adult life. Sin that chases you down even after 10 years.
As I’ve contemplated the sorry affair we find ourselves in, I’ve come to this: I alone can’t fix the government, the candidates, the country, the state of global affairs, this school, the Church. I am limited in my scope of influence, but this I can determine: the faithful telling of my own story.
The reform I see as necessary in my country, and indeed in my world, is a reformation of character. Policies, spin, social reform, none of it will make a difference if each individual is not living a well told story, doing what is right though it hurts, renouncing evil and perversion, celebrating kindness, goodness, and justice. Real change only comes through repentance; the turning away from the Bad, and towards the Good. The plot must shift, the characters must decide. The story must be told in years lived, not in hasty words said.
And so, with each decision I make, habit develop, attitude I allow, secret I keep, word I say, vote I cast, I hope to be telling a story of faithfulness and humility. One that I will be proud to tell my children, and reminisce about with my dearest friends. One I hope is honouring to the Jesus I follow.
It was strange and wonderful to see the Lewis brothers’ lives laid out like a story at its end.
But it was a good story they told.
And, Lord have mercy, may I tell a good one too.
So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.