Surprised By Joy

Most known for the Chronicles of Narnia series, I knew C.S. Lewis had written many other books, but hadn’t read any of them. I decided recently that I’d remedy that, and it seemed to make sense to start at his beginning, with his autobiography.

Lewis takes readers through his early life, sharing how creating worlds was as natural as breathing. Though raised in a Christian home, somewhere along the way in his education Lewis found his way into atheism. It wasn’t until later on, when he made his way to Oxford, that conversations with his friends began to change his mind.

Throughout it all, Lewis had been searching for joy, not fully understanding what he was looking for. Thinking it had something to do with writing and creating fictional worlds, or something to do with the epic sagas he enjoyed reading, Lewis tried pursuing those things. It wasn’t until later that he realized the elusive joy he was seeking was not the actualization, but a “pointer to something other and outer.” Without it, he placed great value on it and sought it fervently. But, when he accepted Christianity and received the joy of a relationship with Christ, joy paled in comparison to what he now had.

This is a book that, for most of us, probably requires a couple reads to really grasp everything he shares in the last few chapters. And I’d be lying if I said it was an easy read. Despite being a short book, it took me longer to read than books of similar length, because it wasn’t chock full of action. Even in biographies and history books, I think we tend to read exciting stories. Lewis’ book is a methodical walk through his journey to develop his theology–a book that has a very specific audience, in terms of being really enjoyable. For the rest of us, it might just be an educational book we choose to read, but that we have to push ourselves to read.

All that to say, maybe Surprised By Joy wasn’t the right place to start off in diving into Lewis’ nonfiction work, it’s too late to go back and change it now. But I won’t let it keep me from trying some of his other works.

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