Saturday, 11 October 2008

A Grief Observed: love and idolatry

C. S. Lewis says:
"I must think more about H. and less about myself.
Yes, that sounds very well. But there's a snag. I am thinking about her nearly always. Thinking of the H. facts - real words, looks, laughs, and actions of hers. But it is my own mind that selects and groups them. Already, less than a month after her death, I can feel the slow, insidious beginning of a process that will make the H. I think of into a more and more imaginary woman. Founded on facts, no doubt. I shall put in nothing fictitious (or I hope I shan't). But won't the composition inevitably become more and more my own? The reality is no longer there to check me, to pull me up short, as the real H. so often did, so unexpectedly, by being so thoroughly herself and not me."
- p. 18 C. S. Lewis in A Grief Observed

"Images of the Holy easily become holy images - sacrosanct. My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins. And most are 'offended' by the iconoclasm; and blessed are those who are not. But the same thing happens in our private prayers.
All reality is iconoclastic. The earthly beloved, even in this life, incessantly triumphs over your mere idea of her. And you want her to; you want her with all her resistances, all her faults, all her unexpectedness. That is, in her foursquare and independent reality. And this, not any image or memory, is what we are to love still, after she is dead. [...] Not my idea of God, but God. Not my idea of H., but H. Yes, and also not my idea of my neighbour, but my neighbour."
- p 66-67 C. S. Lewis in A Grief Observed

Lewis shows something very insightful about idolatry and love. If you are to love someone you must love her as she really is, not someone whom you wish to love. If you are to love God, you must love God as He really is, not a god you wish to love. In the case of loving another human being, if you fail to see, know, and love her as she really is, you are only going to judge her against your imagining of her, and you will only deeply hurt her. When it is a case for God, it becomes idolatry. And God will not tolerate that for long.

This is another reason why we must keep reading the Bible, which is God's own revelation to us, not human imagination or wishful thinking about God.

Lewis says,
I need Christ, not something that resembles Him. I want H., not something that is like her.
- p 65 C. S. Lewis in A Grief Observed

We must acknowledge and love God as He truly is. And we must acknowledge and love other people as they truly are.

(Oh, and as a trailing thought, given that we must acknowledge and love God as He truly is, and we must do the same for other people, do you see why God is more satisfying than anything or anyone else in the whole universe and beyond? Just take some time to ponder on that.)

1 comment:

Sharon said...

Never thought of it that way.

Very profound. Almost too profound for me to be reading it at work.