I said last month that I wanted to cuddle up with some C.S. Lewis during December, and I did. Thanks to my your recommendations (Jennifer, Rustin and I can’t remember who else), I chose Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold — Lewis’ “ultimate” novel. (And Catherine, the space triology is next!)
I don’t tend to pick up fiction (not sure why), but I am sure glad I did. As the snow started to fall here in the Midwest, the nights grew very long and dark and our imaginations turned toward Christmas stories like the original nativity and so many more, it was good to fall into a story from far, far away and long, long ago.
I’ll try not to spoil it for those who haven’t read it yet, but in essence, Till We Have Faces is an imaginative retelling of the timeless story of Cupid and Psyche. Now I didn’t know much about Cupid other than him being a big chubby baby that flings love-arrows at unsuspecting singles, but it turns out there’s more to the ancient Greek myth than that.
What’s interesting is that when Lewis heard the story of Cupid and Psyche as an undergraduate (perhaps still a teenager), there was one piece of it that didn’t make sense to him. In the legend, when Psyche (born a mortal) is off living in a magnificent palace with her new husband, the god Cupid, it goes that her sisters were jealous of her and plotted to make her do something that would ruin her life. Psyche did what they provoked her to do, and it did indeed ruin her happiness.
But Lewis never accepted that telling of the story. Though just a simple detail, Lewis felt that surely the sisters could not see the divine magnificent palace. They weren’t jealous; they simply didn’t have eyes to see the dwelling of the god Cupid.
Let me put it one other way. When Lewis started thinking about this story as a teenager, he approached it from the angle that the humans were in the right (their doubts were well-justified) and the gods were wrong. It wasn’t fair! It wasn’t that they were jealous of their sister; they simply couldn’t see her new palace and concluded that she must be mentally unstable. She must be living in a make-believe world and they had to end it for her own safety.
But as anyone who knows Lewis knows, the author of this book wasn’t the same person a teenager that he was later in life. At the age of 32, C.S. Lewis had a profound conversion experience. He reoriented his life away from doubt and instead, embraced Jesus Christ. He became a Christian.
My favorite part of the book is, of course, the end. Well now I am really spoiling it for people who haven’t read it. Dang it, stop reading this blog now and go get the book!
Anyway, the end is satisfying and not. I’m curious what someone whose heart isn’t open to God would think of it. After hundreds of pages of the narrator making her firm case against the gods, she finally gets her answer in the end. Of course, it’s not the answer(s) she expected.
It reminds me of something that Os Guinness is famous for saying to confused college graduates wondering what to do with their lives: “We are not called to something; we are called to Someone.”
Somehow, that is all the answer we need in life.