The Great Divorce, the Will, and Easter

God often arranges things in our lives so that an idea that is true, beautiful, and important to him will not be missed by his (sometimes) less-than-observant children. I was challenged over Spring Break by the deacon at my church to read a work of theology as a practice for Lent in preparation for Easter. By coincidence, I found myself at the largest used bookstore in the world, Powell's Books, while visiting my older brother over the break in Portland, Oregon. After combing the shelves (and practicing self-control by not buying out their entire section of European history), I landed upon C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce. It is a brief but powerful book about the choice humans make between Heaven and Hell. I recommend it to all of you--the beauty and simplicity of his allegory, the power of his prose, and his insight into life and God are profound. It is an excellent and worthy read. Lewis's premise throughout the book is that every human is afforded a choice between heaven and hell, and, like Dante, he, the author, is sent to observe the souls in Heaven and Hell. The decision to be made is, in essence, to live for the self, or to live for God. He says, "There are only 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." 

In addition to challenging my walk with God and my approach to life, this quote struck me as very similar to Charlotte Mason's discussion of the Will in Book 2 of Ourselves, which we are currently reading in 8th grade Citizenship. She speaks of the Will as the key to being truly human, and that to Will is to choose something outside of the self, such as Willing to work hard at our jobs to honor God and provide for our families, rather than for the sake of personal acclaim, greed, or fear. According to Ms. Mason, the Will is neither moral nor immoral (it can be used for good or ill), but to fail to engage the Will is to be slave to our interior desires and the exterior influence of culture. Indeed, we were created to live as free by engaging our Will to choose a purpose greater than ourselves. After reading The Great Divorce, I think C.S. Lewis would say that there is nothing so important and joy-filled in life as our desire and resolution to engage our Will to live for God's purpose rather than our own. 

As I sat and thought through this idea of the Will, Heaven, and the joy-filled life, I thought about Easter, and I thought about Jesus. Who better to illustrate the Will in action? Who better to show us the joy and the promise of submission to the will of the Father, no matter how painful it may be? In the garden, Jesus came to the ultimate crisis of Will--the same crisis that Lewis wrote about in The Great Divorce--to live for the Father or for himself. On one hand lay the cross, the weight of the world, suffering, death, and loneliness; on the other lay a way out, and an avoidance of unimaginable pain and loss. Jesus, says in Luke 22 (which we also happen to be reading in Junior High), "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done." The boundless joy that resulted from his heartache and his decision to engage his Will was, is now, and will be forevermore. 

This idea, that submission to the Father's will is heavenly, and leads to living a joy-filled life as it was meant to be lived, is one that has demanded a rethinking of my priorities, my desires, and my purpose. Moreover, it has given me words and thoughts to pray as I ask the Holy Spirit to help me be a good husband, father, teacher, and man. It also comforts me that God has grace for me when I struggle to engage my Will, or when I make a poor decision to live selfishly. Perhaps God has grabbed a hold of your mind and heart with a similar idea lately. If not, I urge you to stop, look around you, think, and pray, because God's voice is everywhere. He speaks through avenues as diverse as our work, our vacations, through the words of a man and woman who lived in a previous century, and from a man who rose again 2000 years ago, who still lives today.

This is our first post by Principal Andrew Hayes.  Andrew and his family will be relocating from Denver, Colorado to Boerne, Texas this summer to lead Ambleside School of Boerne.