I recently reread one of my favorite books, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. And I found that he spends quite a bit of time talking about the theme of my blog—finding our true selves in the people God created us to be. I didn’t purposefully have Lewis in mind when I wrote that tagline, but I’d read Mere Christianity before and I’m sure that’s partly where the idea came from.
Yesterday, I was struggling to come up with an idea for today’s post. It’s hard to go wrong talking about C.S. Lewis, so I thought I’d share some of what he has to say about finding the truest versions of ourselves. Of course, given the sort of man that he was, it is impossible for him to talk about such a topic without pointing readers to God.
“The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. There is so much of Him that millions and millions of ‘little Christs,’ all different, will still be too few to express Him fully. He made them all. He invented—as an author invents characters in a novel—all the different men that you and I were intended to be. In that sense our real selves are all waiting for us in Him. It is no good trying to ‘be myself’ without Him. The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. … I am not, in my natural state, nearly so much of a person as I like to believe: most of what I call ‘me’ can be very easily explained. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His Personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.”Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
It’s an interesting concept to think that that no matter how hard we might try on our own to be an individual, authentic self we will actually be moving away from our real personalities if we are not moving toward God. As the inventor of personality, God is the one best qualified to tell us what we are meant to be. It’s the potter and clay analogy—that God is the potter who decides what sort of vessel He is making us to be (Is. 29:15-16; Jer. 18:1-6).
A choice to be different
Perhaps the idea of needing to turn to God to find ourselves sounds like it goes against free will. It does not. The very fact that we can reject God and try to be something other than what He intends attests to Him giving us a choice. But choosing anything other than Him just means we’re crippling our self-expression and rejecting the greatest path to personal growth. Finding ourselves shouldn’t be our focus, though. In fact, getting too caught-up in the self is a good way to lose track of our truest personality.
“At the beginning I said there were Personalities in God. I will go further now. There are no real personalities anywhere else. Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self. Sameness is to be found most among the most ‘natural’ men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been; how gloriously different are the saints.” Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
There’s so much fullness in Christ that becoming like Him does not mean we all turn into little carbon-copies of each other. He made us to be gloriously different, and we learn exactly how to do that when we lose ourselves in Him. As Jesus said, “He who seeks his life will lose it; and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39, WEB).
“But there must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away ‘blindly’ so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality; but you must not go to Him for the sake of that. As long as your own personality is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all. The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him.”Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
Transformation, not just improvement
One of the points that Lewis makes quite eloquently is that the work Jesus is doing in us involves a whole lot more than simply making us better people. A lot of us come to Jesus and think we can basically stay as we are. We try to become “good” (well, good-ish) when in fact God as a much higher plan for us. He wants us to be perfect, and that means a deeper change.
“The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves,’ to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good.’ We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way—centered on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and re-sown.” — Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
This sounds drastic, and it is. It may also sound impossible, but don’t despair. God knows what raw material you’re working with and He’s not worried about how far you are from perfection when you first come to Him. In fact, He does some of His best work with the people who the world would describe as the most hopeless (though of course He can work with anyone who is willing to let Him).
If we try to do things on our own, we’re settling for less than the best. That includes settling for a version of ourselves that is missing something essential from our Creator. If we go through life focused on self, even if that simply means trying to be good apart from God, we will not find happiness. But, to quote the final line of Mere Christianity, “look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”
The quotes I took from Mere Christianity are all found near the end of the book (several from the final chapter). If you’d like to read everything leading up to them, I highly recommend this book. Here’s a link where you can buy it. (Please not that this is an affiliate link, which means if you click and make a purchase I’ll receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.) If you’d like to read Mere Christianity without buying it, the full text is available online.
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