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SURPRISED BY JOY

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A Paper
Submitted to Professor Martin
Luther Rice University

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In partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the Course
Church History

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By
William Connor Henderson
[4/3/15]

TABLE OF CONTENTS
I.

Introduction........................................1

II.

Body................................................2

III. Conclusion..........................................6
IV.

Bibliography........................................4

ii

Lewis, C. S. Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life.


New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1956.
INTRODUCTION

Shut your mouth; open your eyes and ears. In


Surprised by Joy C.S. Lewis basically lays out his young
life, his formative years and the journey from a wandering
eyed child to one of the most prolific apologists in the
20th Century. Lewis begins the book by saying that the two
reasons that he wrote this book was to explain his journey
from Atheism to Christianity and to correct a few incorrect
ideas people have about him. His idea of writing about
himself seems to bore him and he doesnt see too much good
that can come of writing on himself. This paper will discuss
his childhood, his conversion, his findings in his life
journey and how they all influenced the C.S. Lewis that the
world is more familiar with.

BODY
Early Life
Lewis was born into a comfortable life. He had a
brother who he described as more of a best friend and life
partner, a successful father and a loving intelligent
mother. He describes his childhood as plain and simple
naivety. He was young, foolish and happy. He didnt
recognize fully his blessings or his own joy.
One of the turning points in his life that he credits
with much hurt, but also much growth was the death of his
mother. Up until this point his life was easy and stress
free. He didnt have cares and his thoughts were shallow and
on par with most children. He notes his love for reading and
writing starting at a very young age. His love for the
imagination and deep thought helped develop who he would be
as an adult and would have a great impact on his writing
style.
After his mother passed he went off to school. He had
problems with the education system. He loved higher thinking
and learning, but the system and the teachers were stumbling
blocks for him.

the greatest service we can do to education


today is to teach fewer subjects. No one has time to do
more than a very few things well before he is twenty,
and when we force a boy to be a mediocrity in a dozen
subjects, we destroy his standards, perhaps for life.
Lewis found atheism in his lack of faith in God. Religion
was taught to him as a boy and it was not something he was
ready

or

willing

to

comprehend

or

surrender

to.

He

experimented with multiple types of belief and non-belief


systems and none of them were sufficient for him. Lewis was
looking

for

something

more

and

these

were

all

poor

substitutes for what he was seeking. It seems that his


beliefs matured as he did. The more he understood the more
complex and sound his beliefs would become.
Pursuit of Joy
Lewis was a dreamer. He explored in nature and he
explored his inner most being. He was very reflective and it
is evident in this text that he was extremely observant and
things that a normal person might look past or forget held
great importance to him. Lewis claims that he lost his joy
the day his mother died. Life became real after that and he
wanted joy. He looked for joy in everything, education,
women and religions. He looked in earthly pleasures and each

time they resulted in a loss of the high and he would be


right back where he started, yearning and desiring more.
I again tasted Joy. ... One thing, however, I
learned, which has since saved me from many popular
confusions of mind. I came to know by experience that
it is not a disguise of sexual desire. ... I repeatedly
followed that path - to the end. And at the end one
found pleasure; which immediately resulted in the
discovery that pleasure (whether that pleasure or any
other) was not what you had been looking for. ..You
might as well offer a mutton chop to a man who is dying
of thirst as offer sexual pleasure to the desire I am
speaking of. ... Joy is not a substitute for sex; sex
is very often a substitute for Joy. I sometimes wonder
whether all pleasures are not substitutes for Joy.
For a person like Lewis, this pursuit was exhausting. While
many people seem to fall into the pursuit and settle for the
sex, the fame, the alcohol or the drugs, Lewis still looked
for more. He needed more. Without joy, he didnt see a
reason to exist. Eventually Lewis found Christ, truly,
honestly and wholly. He wasnt being forced to accept Christ
on anyone elses terms or conditions. After a life spent
searching, he found the true God. He came to the realization

that God was the creator of joy. In Him, all things were
made good and all things were made right.
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? The words compelle
intrare, compel them to come in, have been so abused
be wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly
understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy.
The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men,
and His compulsion is our liberation.
Lewis great acceptance of Christ stemmed from his
understanding that God truly loved him. He knew his mother
loved him and she provided much of childish joy. He finally
found a love that wasnt fleeting. In Christ he found his
hope, his happiness, his love and his joy.

CONCLUSION
5

Lewis is commonly described as one of the greatest


writers in Christian history and has done much for reaching
out to people outside of the faith and appealing to them in
ways that Christians normally couldnt. Surprised by Joy
really explains how Lewis became the way he is. Whether it
is be the imaginative child who wanted to believe in the
mystical Norse religions, the hardened atheist who looked
for temporary joy in everything, or the man who finally
surrendered his life to the One who brings all joy.
Lewis shows the reader that earthly joy is fleeting and
empty. Lewis way of thinking and writing has influenced
many in and outside of the faith. This chronicling of his
pursuit of joy shows that there is only one true and lasting
source of joy.

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Lewis, C. S. Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life.


New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1956.