Friday, March 2, 2012

A Prophecy in The Great Divorce

There's a passage in C. S. Lewis's The Great Divorce that always gives me pause but I've never commented on. The Great Divorce, it will be recalled, is about some people in hell who take a bus trip to the outskirts of heaven where they are met by people who try to convince them to come further. Most refuse. I wrote about it in this long post if anyone's interested. The passage I'm thinking of immediately follows the account of a woman who has come to heaven to see her son who died in his youth. She has a conversation with someone from her past who tells her that her love for her son has turned in on itself so that she cannot love anyone else, including God. It's a heartbreaking story.

Following this, Lewis -- who puts himself into the story in the first person -- has a conversation with his Teacher who has come out of deep heaven to meet him: George MacDonald. Lewis asks MacDonald whether he could actually relate what he had just learned to a mother who had lost a child.

"But could one dare -- could one have the face -- to go to a bereaved mother, in her misery -- when one's not bereaved oneself?..."

And MacDonald replies,

"No, no, Son, that's no office of yours. You're not a good enough man for that. When your own heart's been broken it will be time for you to think of talking."

Now how can anyone familiar with Lewis's life read this and not immediately think of his marriage to Joy Davidman, her death to cancer, and Lewis's subsequent book A Grief Observed? I can't be the first person to notice this, it's been leaping out at me for as long as I've been reading The Great Divorce.

Now I titled this post a prophecy, but I think if it's not just a coincidence, it may have been a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don't mean by this that Lewis orchestrated his own heartbreak, I just mean that he was fully aware of this passage that he wrote, so perhaps when he saw his heartbreak approaching, he may have consciously fulfilled this passage by taking notes on his grief. That's essentially what A Grief Observed is.

1 comment:

Sean Ridenour said...

One of my favorite books I've ever read. I did not catch this upon my first or second read. I'll need to read it again.

You know, so many people take this work so literally. I found the metaphors to be applicable right if he were discussing happiness and depression.

As a Christian, you're only granted eternal in your daily walk is something for which you must allow room.