By Cailey Morgan
Over the holidays I had a chance to watch The Most Reluctant Convert, a film highlighting the winding path that led CS Lewis to Christ over the first 30 years of his life.
The movie, based on true life events and writings, leads us through Lewis’ sometimes-active and sometimes-passive resistance to the idea and reality of God, and under it all we see God’s patient, loving pursuit of his child.
For Lewis to come to a place of calling Jesus Saviour and Lord, he needed to be “converted” in both mind and heart. Intellectually, he worked through all the scenarios and concluded that there must be a god: he became a (reluctant) theist based on reasoning and logic. But it takes more than scholarly wrestling to become a whole-person-disciple.
In our text-message philosophizing after watching The Most Reluctant Convert, my mom Sherry Bennett put it this way: “clearly Lewis’ decision to follow was a result of the Spirit and not just his pursuit of knowledge. Understanding came from the Spirit. And from Spirit-led understanding came a depth of call and commitment. If God is real, we can’t just decide that he is somewhat important, but that he is of utmost importance and we must obey.” Lewis moved from a theist to a disciple of Christ as he not only began to find answers in Scripture to feed his mind, but also discovered Jesus the person who quenched his thirsty heart and spurred him on to a new way of living.
This film was especially poignant for me as I thought about a mentor of mine who had first experienced Christ through Lewis’ book Mere Christianity. But it brought up a question for me as well. If CS Lewis hadn’t lost his mother at a young age, or served in World War I, would he have written that book? Would my friend have come to know Jesus and become an important figure in my development as a young Christian leader?
I don’t recommend “what-if” rabbit trails as they rarely take us anywhere good. But this one did. It reminded me that God’s love is pursuing us in so many ways, and it inspired me to want to be part of that journey for those around me. Do my everyday decisions, words, and attitudes provide a chance for people to experience Christ? Are we living in such a way as to give people a taste of God’s love?
“I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world. I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world, summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.” Wendell Berry, Another Turn of the Crank
To borrow a Shannon-ism, the Gospel is thick enough to reach each of us where we are at, even as different parts of us are converted at different stages for different people. Similarly, Mom reminded me of John 1 and the calling of various disciples to Jesus: “John pointed out the Messiah to Andrew and he followed. Then Andrew got his brother Simon, who then also followed. But interestingly, the next disciple to follow was Philip—but it was Jesus who went and found/pursued him! And then He went to Nathanael who was skeptical. He needed a direct, tangible encounter with Jesus and proof to follow.”
Perhaps it is a deep discussion with a friend that enlightens the mind or seeing the selfless action of a stranger that touches the heart. Perhaps the Spirit speaks without another soul around—through a dream or a song or the beauty of Creation.
For Lewis, many of the big steps on his journey had to do with people he respected who were open about their Christian faith. Because there is a film about his life, we get the joy of experiencing those moments in hindsight, whereas in our day-to-day, we don’t often get to see the mental wrestlings or inner journeys of our friends, family, or neighbours. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t making a difference.
I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions this year, but CS Lewis, the apostle John, Wendell Berry, and my mom have helped rekindle a desire to join God, through a life of love, in “summoning the world always toward wholeness.”
And this is my hope for you this year: to follow the Spirit into a life of God-indwelled grace and boldness, deeply rooted in prayer for the other. A life bearing the Fruit of the Spirit in you and those around you.
Even if they never make a movie about it.