A couple of weeks ago, I had the gift of getting to attend a play by Max McLean. McLean is a Christ-follower actor, who has worked tirelessly to present some of the works of C.S. Lewis on-stage.
The one-act, one-man play that I watched was held in the historic Lansburgh theater in Washington, D.C. It’s charm is that it is small; I would even say that it is cozy. So, as we watched McLean personify C.S. Lewis sitting in his office–books on his desk, sherry and stout on the table, pictures of his family on the wall—one really did feel as if they were sitting down with Lewis, in his home, getting ready to take tea and debate with him.
I loved it.
The focus of the play was on two of Lewis’ works: Surprised by Joy and The Weight of Glory. I’ve only read The Weight of Glory once; however, I’ve read Surprised by Joy several times. Surprised by Joy is a key book in my process of coming to believe that there is a God, and subsequently coming to be a Christ-follower. The first time I read it, I started it upon wheels-up of a long flight to Honolulu. By the time we landed, I had read the book cover to cover, and I was not the same person. No, I wasn’t a Christ-follower yet, upon completion of the book. But I had found someone in Lewis who had found words about things that I had struggled to express, or understand, or had questioned, all my life.
So, as McLean spoke the words of his monologue that Saturday afternoon, I found many of them to be familiar. Recognizable. Comfortable–and comforting. I–along with much of the audience–chuckled at several points in the presentation. Lewis had such a way with words! It was delightful to hear them shared in that medium.
But at one point in the 70-minute-long act, while the rest of the audience chucked at what was being said, I found myself in tears. Oh, what Lewis (McLean) said at that point did conjure up a funny picture–the imagination of what Lewis was describing; however, they were not funny words to me, because I had lived them myself.
Here is what was said, taken straight from Surprised by Joy:
“You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape?”
Oh, my soul. These were the words that caught me off guard that Saturday afternoon; in hearing them again–words I have read so many times before. I did not expect that they would stir my mind and soul, but hearing them intoned by McLean as Lewis, wrecked me a bit–in a good way……..because I deeply understand Lewis’ words here because I could have echoed them, or written them myself. I, too “gave in” and admitted God was God. I, too, was “the most dejected and reluctant covert” (in all of the United Statues; or so it seemed at the time). I was the prodigal brought into the gates, kicking, struggling, resentful and darting my eyes in every direction, looking for escape, and finding none.
And, yes, I “duly adore the Love: of God, which was “steady, unrelenting” in His approach.
It is grace. Amazing grace.
So, as the audience laughed at the image of Lewis practically being dragged into Christianity, I found my cheeks wet with uncharacteristic tears. Because I remembered.
And, because I am so grateful for His forgiving love, and tender mercy, even for the kicking, resentful prodigal daughter that I was–and that I still default to, at times.
I think Tim Keller does a great job of summing it up, with these words:
“God relentlessly offers his grace to people who do not deserve it, or seek it, or even appreciate it after they have been saved by it.”
Yes. This is truth. He did, to me. He does, to me, even today.
And He relentlessly offers it to you, too.
4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’