Monday, February 1, 2016

The Intolerable Complement

2016 is starting out pretty amazing.  I’m crazy busy, but I won’t complain.  I’m loving life.

Remember that I said that I was listening to books?  I’ve been on a bit of a C.S. Lewis binge of late. 

In the last few months I’ve “read” The Great Divorce, Mere Christianity, and The Problem of Pain.  I took a break in between to listen to something a bit less heady, and just finished The Problem of Pain last week.  I feel like I’m secure in the fact that I’m an intelligent woman, but when I read C.S. Lewis I feel like I know nothing, that I’m never going to get it.  Like he’s speaking the language of the gods and I am a mere mortal.  I was talking to someone about this and he told me that you have to just realize that every time you read him you’re going to get something more than you got the last time, and be patient with yourself.  So, I’m working on it.

But, reading The Problem of Pain has totally changed my life. 

I struggle with caring too much about what people think about me.  I think I’m better than I used to be, but it’s still there.  In a lot of ways I feel that people think that I must have really screwed up to be in the position that I am.  Widowed.  I have let that affect my own thoughts about myself as well.

It seems like there are multiple ways to process grief and suffering, but the way that I always go is that its all my fault.  Since the terrible thing that happened to me can’t be explained, it must be because of something that I did, or because I’m a bad person, or at any rate not good enough, and eventually, I get to, because God doesn’t love me enough. 

Part of the “messy spirituality" that I’m known for is that (as I have said before) I know intellectually that God loves me and wants what’s best for me, but if he thinks that me being widowed is best for me, then he’s kind of an asshole.  Even though I hate it, that’s  pretty much been the way I’ve been relating to him for the last six or so years.  And then I read this:

"We are, not metaphorically, but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character.  Here again we come up against what I have called the 'intolerable compliment'. Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life - the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child - he will take endless trouble - and would, doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient [the ability to feel and to have subjective experiences]. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and recommenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumbnail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less." - C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain.

Hmm.  He really loves me after all.  Talk about a paradigm shift.


  1. Personally, I don't believe being a widow is God's best for you. Becoming a widow is something that happened to you. But if we let Him, God will use what happens to us to shape us and change us. I love C.S. Lewis!

    1. That's a different way of thinking about it, and I hope you're right. Thank you for saying that! I love C.S. Lewis, too. I'm obsessed these days. I even watched the movie Shadowlands the other night....Love to you.