A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“Somebody once asked me: ‘Why did God make a creature of such rotten stuff that it went wrong?’ The better stuff a creature is made of – the cleverer and stronger and freer it is—then the better it will be if it goes right, but also the worse it will be it if goes wrong. A cow cannot be very good or very bad; a dog can be both better and worse; a child better or worse still; an ordinary man, still more so; a man of genius, still more so; a superhuman spirit best—or worst—of all (p. 49).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
What do we want for our children? What would be the best thing we could ask God to grant our children? If we are honest, I think most of us (myself included), would pray that our children would do great things. Personally, I look for special moments to whisper in the ears of my boys, “I believe and pray this world will be a better place because of the life you live on it.”
After reading Lewis’ quote, I am convicted to pray differently. Now my prayers would sound something like, “Lord, grant my boys the humility to contain whatever ‘good works’ You have ordained for them to accomplish.” I realize I was inadvertently praying for a temptation without praying for the accompanying protection.
That is not to say that I think God would curse my boys for my imbalanced prayers. But my prayers (even for others) change me. When I bring things before the Father as “worthy of His attention” I am shaped to treasure those things. When I prayed for my boys to change the world without spending equal time praying for their character, I was reinforcing the distortions of my own heart.
Lewis’ quote on “better stuff” makes more sense of Jesus’ teaching/warning:
“But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45)
Greatness must be protected from itself if it is to remain good. Power is ultimately remembered more for its impact than its magnitude. The most powerful figures in human history are rarely remembered fondly. Their character could not contain their influence.
Service (and its embedded virtue of humility) is the protection of greatness. It is one of the few cases where the wrapper should be valued more than the object. Greatness outside the wrapper of humility always mutates into evil.
May we pray regularly (for ourselves and our children), in light of the “better stuff” from which we are made, that God would grant us the humility to carry greatness (His image and the message of salvation) with integrity all of our days. Let us pray that we would pray for the wrapper with complete faith that when we have humility that God will grant all we need to accomplish all He intends (James 4:6).