I finished reading The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis last week. I think I'm going to add to my bucket list to read all of his works. Like 5 times. I know with this book I could have read it 10 times already and still not have gotten everything, which is crazy because it's only 125 pages. His books are just so RICH in detail and doctrine. No wonder they're quoted all the time in general conference - even though he's not LDS. I have read the entire Chronicles of Narnia series (many times), The Screwtape Letters, and now The Great Divorce. I think my next ventures for him are going to be Mere Christianity and Letters to Children.
So, for The Great Divorce, here's some background - It's set as if the narrator has died and was taken with other spirits on a flying bus to a large, beautiful world. Yet, the spirits are not yet meant for that world. The blades of grass hurt their feet as if they're walking on pins and rain feels like bullets to them. They are met on a huge meadow by large, solid people who try to convince them to come up the mountain and partake of the joy of Jesus Christ. But the narrator witnesses many excuses as to why the spirits won't come. I'm going to take a few examples I thought were interesting:
-Pride. The first example the narrator witnesses is of a ghost who is met by a solid spirit he knew in earth life as his employee and who he knew committed a horrible sin. And he felt like he had been good all his life. In the end, he chose not to go with the solid spirit: "I'm not coming, see? I'd rather be damned than go along with you. I came here to get my rights, see?" And, so he chose not to go to heaven and be with Jesus and have joy because he thought he was better than others there.
-Unbelief. Another ghost tried to talk the narrator into leaving because he thought it was all a scam. He tried to tell the narrator that Heaven and Hell were really run by the same institution - and the perception of the difference between the two was all an illusion & that there was no war between heaven & hell: "...if there's a real war why don't they do anything? Don't you see that if the official version were true these chaps up here would attack and sweep the Town (hell) out of existence? They've got the strength. Obviously the last thing they want is to end their so-called 'war.' The whole game depends on keeping it going."
-Shame. One ghost (a woman) would not go with the Solid Spirit because she felt so bad that she was just a ghost and not a solid spirit yet and she couldn't make the journey until she was like the glorious solid people: "How can I go out like this among a lot of people with solid bodies? It's far worse than going out with nothing on would have been on earth." The solid spirit's answer: "An hour hence and you will not care. Don't you remember on earth - there were things too hot to touch with your finger but you could drink them all right? Shame is like that. If you will accept it - if you will drink the cup to the bottom - you will find it very nourishing; but try to do anything else with it and it scalds." Still, in the end, she chose not to go because she compared herself to the other solid spirits, and gave up her joy for it.
-Misdirected love. The narrator said this was one of the most painful meetings he witnessed. It was between a woman ghost and her brother as the Bright Spirit. She immediately wanted to see her son who had died when he was young. The Bright Spirit assured her she could as soon as she stopped focusing on him and started focusing on the Savior instead: "You're treating God only as a means to Michael. But the whole thickening treatment consists in learning to want God for His own sake." Still, the woman insisted that all she wanted was her boy & she could hardly love God for taking away her son. The spirit said "He had to take Michael away...He wanted your merely instinctive love for your child to turn into something better. He wanted you to love Michael as He understands love. you cannot love a fellow-creature till you love God." In the end, the woman would not hear of it. She would rather live with her son in hell than change her heart and focus of her love and have him in heaven.
There was another example of this with a husband and wife. She had passed on many years before him and greeted him in all her beauty and glory. He wondered if she had missed him & was miserable all these years. She said no - that she had been happy and in love and fulfilled in the love of Jesus. He was jealous and upset that she had not been miserable without him, that she did not need him. She said "What needs could I have now that I have all? I am full now, not empty. I am in Love Himself, not lonely. Strong, not weak. You shall be the same. come and see. We shall have no need for one another now; we can begin to love truly."
So - the bottom line that I take away from this book is what I have been trying to focus on and truly write in my heart lately: that I need to focus on my relationship with my Savior above ALL else. As educational as it is to watch some TV programs, as righteous as it is to want to keep my home in order, and even as noble as it is to care for my children and husband, I need to FOCUS ON MY SAVIOR first. Everything and everyone else can be taken away. He is the only one that remains. So, I ask myself how I know if I am putting Him first - making sure that I am not leaning too much on anything or anyone else? Do I go to Him with my happiness, with my misery, with my concerns, with my questions? More importantly, am I obeying the answers? These are questions I am going to continue working on. I sure have a long way to go...
Here's a couple more quotes that I personally can directly apply from this book:
"The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words 'Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.' There is always something they insist on keeping, even at the price of misery. There is always something they prefer to joy - that is, to reality. Ye see it easily enough in a spoiled child that would sooner miss its play and its supper than say it was sorry and be friends. Ye call it the Sulks. But in adult life it has a hundred fine names - ... Revenge and Injured Merit and Self-Respect and Tragic Greatness and Proper Pride."
"There are two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says , in the end 'Thy will be done.' All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened."
So- here's to giving my heart and will to Jesus in THIS LIFE, so that I don't wait to have joy and peace until I die. I can have it NOW!!