Tag Archives: C. S. Lewis

The Inner Ring

There was a time in my life when I didn’t care about marriage.  I’m sure of it.  Really.  There MUST have been…  When I was younger I knew it wasn’t time yet, but I still looked forward to the day I would have a husband, when I would have that part of my future determined and set.  When my parents had my baby brother, I was nearly eleven years old.  I don’t think I realized he wasn’t my own son – until I wanted to go outside and play…  His baby sweetness consumed me and I knew I wanted to have children of my own.  As the years of perpetual singleness dragged on, my empty arms ached, longing to be a part of marriage, a family, that elusive world I couldn’t seem to join in spite of the ease with which nearly everyone around me seemed to be entering it.

One of my favorite writings addresses this issue.  By C.S. Lewis, it’s a 9-page article entitled, “The Inner Ring”, published in his book The Weight of Glory.  He addresses the reality of our human desire to get into the group we are excluded from.  We always want what we think we cannot have, want to be accepted by those who don’t accept us, want to climb over that fence that separates us from whatever is on the other side.  At times, we think there is no way we can be happy until we cross that line.  We strive and strain and turn ourselves inside out, trying to get into that elite group that eludes us.

The craziest part of it all, as Lewis points out, is that once we are a part of the group we wanted so badly to become a part of, it suddenly loses it’s magic.  After all, the group accepted us, so it can’t be as great as we thought it was to begin with!  We realize there is a better group that hasn’t yet accepted us, and so we begin seeking acceptance into the next group.  The rings never end because each time we get deeper into the inner ring, the same thing happens all over again.

Lewis’ answer to this problem is that we should forget about getting into anyone else’s inner ring.  We should do the best we can at what we have to do and soon we will be known for our excellence and be included among those who make decisions about the thing we do.  In our spare time, we should hang out with people we actually like and do fun things with them.  Then we will form friendships and without even meaning to, we will find ourselves at the center of an inner ring of our own.

I’ve been caught up in the tasks of planning my wedding, preparing to move to another area of the country, leaving my jobs and friends and church, settling into a new house, and learning to know and understand my fiance better.  Yet today I opened my email and saw a newsletter from a website for brides that provides resources to help in the planning process, and I stopped for a moment.  I stopped because I had a flash, my heart squeezing tight, remembering how it felt to be on the outside of this inner circle – the inner circle of “bride”.  I remembered the longing, the feeling that I might never belong to the group, might never experience how it felt to be chosen, loved, and accepted, and might never get to pick out the perfect white dress.

Today I took care of some precious children I have grown to love, laughed as the little one threw her arms in the air twirling and dancing, calling for me to watch her, and then helped her older sister write a story for school.  I listened as my precious niece sang me a song and felt the joy of anticipation that I get to spend time with her in a few weeks.  Motherhood now looms before me, the next inner ring that I have not yet been welcomed into.

I have to laugh at myself.  I must be still for a few moments tonight to soak it in, appreciate the tremendous blessing I’m currently walking in.  I don’t want to rush through this beautiful time in my life without even recognizing that this is GOOD. 

Tonight I’m thankful for love, even though I understand it is not the solution to every problem.  I’m thankful for the children God has given me to love at this time, in this way.  I’m thankful for hope – finally a hope I can sink into a bit – that I will one day have children of my own.  I’m thankful for the home being prepared for me, for the family that Rick and I will create, to provide that stability and security I’ve been missing.

And I pray for all my dear friends who stand outside the circle, waiting for the day when the boundary will melt away and they will be welcomed in.  If I could pull you in myself, I would.  Instead, I will pray as so many have done for me.

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What I’m Reading

Since I’m on vacation, I’ve been reading a little more than usual.  Here’s an update on what’s gotten my attention recently…

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller

This book is one of the best ones I’ve read in a long time.  Donald Miller is a young, witty, godly guy who is trying to change the world.  The book is all about living a life worth telling stories about – taking risks, embracing uncertainties and fears, challenging ourselves, and being the people we want to be.  He uses examples from his own life, explaining that he wasn’t living a very good story and the changes he’s made.  It’s inspiring and led me to reevaluate the choices I’m making in my day to day living.  I liked it so much that I went to see him when he came to town to talk about the book.  It’s the first time I’ve ever gone to an event with an author I liked.  It was more than worth it.

Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis

I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time but never got around to it.  I ended up downloading it onto my iPod for my recent trip home.  It is Lewis’ story of how he became an atheist and what led him back to Christ, and it includes a lot of detail about his childhood.  Although I don’t understand all of his references to classical literature, I’m really enjoying the book.  He gets very personal with the details of his life and important relationships, but he accepts responsibility for the part he played in the challenging things he faced.  He also has great wit and humor, which I really enjoy.  

High on Arrival by Mackenzie Phillips

I heard about this book the day it came out earlier this year.  There was a lot of sensationalism surrounding it and it caught my attention.  I’m really too young to have watched her TV show One Day at a Time, but I was drawn to the story she told.  She was raised by an extremely irresponsible, drug-abusing, abusive and neglectful father and had no stability in her life.  That led her to become a drug addict and make some terrible mistakes.  She was sober for 15 years and then relapsed and was caught in an airport with heroin.  She got clean again and now has written about her experiences.  While I think the book is her attempt to resurrect her career and help her finances, I also think she has to genuinely want to help those who’ve been through things similar to her or she couldn’t have written it.  It’s a terrible story and I learned things I’d have been happy to never know about.  At the same time, I think it’s an important story.  She doesn’t glamorize the use of drugs, but she explains their power.  She explains clearly the horrible things that they do to people.  And she takes ownership for the terrible things that she’s done under their influence.  It’s a window into a life I had no concept of and still find it hard to imagine.  I couldn’t put it down. 

The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature by Dr. Leon Kass

I’ve made a commitment to pay much more attention to what I eat, how I eat, why I eat, and how I feel about eating in 2010.  I’ve already begun to become a healthier, more attentive eater, and I want to really understand the subject more.  That’s why I picked up this book.  It’s a philosophical discussion of how eating affects our lives, our relationships, our bodies, our souls, and so forth.  I’ve been reading a little at a time, trying to understand it but not forcing myself to get every single word.  So far I’ve read the forward, the introduction, and the first chapter.  I’m on chapter two and feel like I’ve been reading forever.  The subject matter is very new to me.  I’m not much of a philosopher.  But it’s also interesting and thought-provoking.  I’m anticipating that it’ll take me awhile to finish the book, but I’ll keep working on it a little bit at a time.

The Psychology of Small Groups

I’ll have to update this blog later with the author’s name for this book.  It’s an out of print textbook that my senior pastor gave me to read and I’ve been learning a lot from it.  Any time I have a little down time at work, I’ve been picking up this book and reading as much as I can.  It’s not written from a Christian perspective, but it’s all about the way that people in small groups behave and why.  From my experience of being in numerous small groups over the years, I find what it’s saying to be true and very helpful in figuring out what’s going on in my groups.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

I recently read this book for the second time, but by a different translator.  It was originally written in Russian.  It’s a novel set in 19th century Russia and is a fascinating description of life during that time and of human nature in general.  I’m not sure why I find the book so compelling, but I really love it.  The first time I read it, I think I skipped all the political stuff that Tolstoy addresses and read it merely for the romance and action.  This time I tried to understand the social and political statements he was making.  I can’t say that I was totally successful, but I tried.  I have a feeling this is a book I’ll read over and over again and enjoy more with each reading. 

The basic plot is that Anna Karenina is a young, beautiful woman who married an older, boring, but successful man whom she didn’t love.  She felt obliged to marry him by society.  She tries to make her marriage work, but she ends up meeting a handsome, vibrant young man who sweeps her off her feet.  She has fun for a while with him, but it leads to a tortured existence of being stuck between her marriage and the child she has with her husband and her lover and the child she has with him.  (It’s a morality tale with an unspoken and complex lesson of the shame and torture that we can be spared when we do things the right way.)  The story expands to include the family members of the Kareninas, and there is where my favorite characters are found.  The love story between Levin and Kitty stirs my heart and captures my imagination.  The relationship between Kitty’s sister and Anna’s brother makes me want to scream.  I think the value of the book may lie in it’s insight into human relationships, romantic and platonic.  It’s a wonderful book.

Have you read any of these books?  What did you think of them?

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