A Life Observed by Devin Brown gives readers access to the spiritual journey of C.S. Lewis. Brown masterfully narrated Lewis’s quest for the source of this mysterious Joy to its journey’s end (Brown, 2013, 152). He does this by showing how Lewis’s childhood, education, academic career, and friendships were sovereignly orchestrated by God to bring Lewis to a place of complete surrender.
The journey begins in Belfast, Ireland, where we meet a young C.S. Lewis. As a child, Brown notes that Lewis had little connection to matters of faith (Brown, 2013, 15). The religious experiences he had at St. Mary’s were dull and dry. This negative experience, plus the tragic death of his mother, and the bullying he experienced in English boarding schools caused Lewis to turn to other voices that would shape his decision to abandon Christianity at about the age of fourteen (CLII, 702).
But God relentlessly pursued Lewis as He ordered his steps and stops. For example, Brown notes, “Lewis was not able to get a philosophy position and went back for a degree in English . . . Had he gotten the post in philosophy, he arguably would never have written the celebrated works he is now known for” (Brown, 2013, 113-114). His degree in English also opened a door for him to become an Oxford Don. While in Oxford, Lewis wrestled with his beliefs as he found them inconsistent and shallow. After much deliberation, Brown states, “Lewis ceased to be an idealist who believed in a vague Absolute and became a theist who believed in a philosophical God, the next step on his road to faith” (Brown, 2013, 131). Eventually, Lewis moved from impersonal theism to personal God. Brown notes, “Lewis began to feel the steady, unfaltering approach of a God he did not really want to meet” (Brown, 2013, 141). Brown adds, “Though Lewis earnestly desired not to meet him, God earnestly desired to meet Lewis (Brown, 2013, 145).” God used his Christian friends to help him see the historical as well as the spiritual truth of the Gospel narrative (Brown, 2013, 154). Finally, on the morning of September 28, 1931–nine days after his late-night talk with his friends–Lewis took the final step to belief (Brown, 2013, 154-155).
Lewis’s spiritual journey is more than a story of personal tragedies and triumphs. Brown shows us that Lewis’s life is ultimately about God’s redeeming grace that relentlessly pursues the elect for His glory. The mysterious longing, Lewis called Joy was no longer a mystery to him as he discovered it in a person: Jesus Christ–the Savior whom he came to know and love.
Looking back at my own conversion, I realized that Lewis’s life had an impact on me through John Piper’s book, Don’t Waste Your Life (Piper quoted Lewis in DWYL a couple of times). Both Piper and Lewis showed me that redemption and true joy can be found in Christ alone. Little did Lewis know that his discovery of Joy in God would impact many lives around the globe.
Devin Brown, A Life Observed (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2013), Kindle edition.