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  • Writer's pictureJean Brender

Sensing the Presence of God in Fellowship with Friends

Have you ever experienced a sense of God’s presence while you were enjoying time with your friends? C.S. Lewis, one of the most influential Christian writers in the twentieth century, encountered God through several of his friends. In his teens and twenties, however, he was an atheist and did not convert to the Christian faith until he was in his early thirties.

Lewis traces his spiritual journey in The Pilgrim's Regress as progressing "on the intellectual side...from 'popular realism' to philosophical idealism; from idealism to pantheism; from pantheism to theism; and from theism to Christianity" (1). He describes himself in his autobiography Surprised by Joy as "the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England" the night he admitted that "God was God and knelt and prayed" (2).

What influenced this Oxford-educated intellectual to become a Christian? Several of Lewis’s friends who later became part of a group called the Inklings had a significant influence on his conversion. These friends included Owen Barfield, Nevill Coghill, Hugo Dyson, and J.R.R. Tolkien, the renowned author of The Lord of the Rings. They helped guide Lewis’s spiritual journey through their shared literary interests with him and their ability to make meaningful connections between such interests and the supernatural and the Christian faith. Lewis deeply admired this group of friends, despite their beliefs in the supernatural and Christianity. Gradually, he began to entertain thoughts and feelings that there might actually be a God who loved him enough to send Jesus into the world to save him.

On September 22, 1931, Lewis wrote Arthur Greeves, one of his friends from his teen years, about an evening that he spent with Dyson and Tolkien that month, during which they strolled outdoors together after dinner and discussed “metaphor and myth” (3). As they were walking along deep in discussion, Lewis recounts that they were interrupted by “a rush of wind which came on so suddenly on the still, warm evening and sent so many leaves pattering that we thought it was raining. We all held our breath, the other two appreciating the ecstasy of such a thing almost as you would. We continued (in my room) on Christianity: a good long satisfying talk in which I learned a lot” (4).

About a week after Lewis wrote this letter, he rode with his brother Warnie to the Whipsnade Zoo in the sidecar of Warnie’s motorbike. Lewis recalls in Surprised by Joy that “when we set out, I did not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo, I did” (5). In a letter to Greeves on October 1, 1931, Lewis shares “how deep I am just now beginning to see: for I have just passed on from believing in God to definitely believing in Christ. My long night talk with Dyson and Tolkien had a good deal to do with it" (6).

In his book The Four Loves, Lewis devotes a chapter on the love of friendship. He proposes that “[friends] are, like all beauties, derived from [God], and then, in a good friendship, increased by Him through the friendship itself, so that it is His instrument for creating as well as for revealing (7).” Lewis might have well been reflecting on how God may have used his Inkling friends to reveal Himself to him. As with Lewis, God may grace us with His presence through our friends.

Cited:

1. C.S. Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014), 207.

2. C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1955), 279.

3. C.S. Lewis and Walter Hooper, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Vol. 1, 969.

4. C.S. Lewis and Walter Hooper, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Vol. 1, 969.

5. C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, 290.

6. C.S. Lewis and Walter Hooper, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Vol. 1, 974.

7. C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2017), 114.


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