— C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Book IV, Chapter 5, “The Obstinate Toy Soldiers”
Years ago, newly reborn as a Christian, when I read these words it were as though a dream too good to be true came true for me, it were as though some invisible threat were suddenly collapsed and trapped forever under a weight that could not be removed. The very core of my being, that I could not express without misunderstanding or instant criticism, was justified. What I suspected, what I wanted to be true, that God is a ‘family man’ and that He really created us to be too, and that ‘family’ was more than what I had experienced growing up, really was true.
Later on, when I had read the psalms enough to notice them and have my favorites, Psalm 133 had the same effect on me, and still does, every time I read it. Here was what humanity was made for. Here was what brother should mean to brother, what father should mean to son, and son to father, even what husband and wife should mean to one another.
How good, how delightful it is
for all to live together like brothers:
fine as oil on the head,
running down Aaron’s beard
to the collar of his robes;
copious as a Hermon dew
falling on the heights of Zion,
where Yahweh confers His blessing,
This is what I was longing for when I ran away from home, on my own personal ‘road to find out,’ looking for this in a New Age hippie commune, where I was the only non-hippie there, and quickly ejected as some kind of antibody. They knew that despite appearances, I didn’t really want what they wanted. I wanted more than mere appearances. I wanted the reality. That was something they must’ve instinctively known was impossible for them, without Christ. So man’s curse turned for me into God’s blessing. God is a ‘family man’ for true, and He wanted me to be one too.
But family, like everything else that’s true, cannot be created by human effort alone, for man, fallen man, though starting out even with right intentions in mind and right actions in hand, will fail, will fall into the same old heresies of self-love, envy, pride and wrath. Only Christ can teach us what love is, and therewith provide in Himself the only true foundation for what we call, and long for, as ‘family.’
So it’s not surprising then when the mystery of division rears up even in the midst of ‘the best of families.’ It’s sad to me and distressing in the utmost to witness parents weighing and calculating their rights against their children to the penny, unwilling to continue to be the sheltering tent of love over them, not realising that they are the foundation on which their son or daughter builds their house, but ejecting them perforce with a spirit almost of competition or ‘survival of the fittest’ with which an animal in the wild might eject its offspring. I am embarrassed by it when I see it, almost embarrassed at being a human myself, even though this attitude is completely foreign to me.
Only the grace of God working in us can produce fruit for love, remake us in the divine image that was shattered by the fall when we ejected ourselves by knowingly breaking the only commandment given to us, consciously taking the only thing that was not permitted us. When we get what we want, denying what we need, it only crushes us lower, so that the things we want become more and more debased, and so that we can no longer hear our hearts crying out for love, and so our own love grows cold. Greed shrivels the soul. The fruitless fig tree withers under Christ’s curse. Was it really not at fault? Can God Himself be wrong to demand from us what He has given us in trust?
These ramblings I offer to the good Lord who called me in the depths of my being and said to me, “Do not be afraid, it is I” (John 6:20), asking Him to forgive my sins and negligences, and my betrayals of the love He has entrusted to me, and to other parents, and asking His mercy on us all.
Cleanse us, Father, from our iniquities and save us from ourselves, unite us to You and to each other in the bonds of love, knowing no debts and holding no accounts between us except to love one another, knowing that we are all worth more than money, and that we have been bought and paid for, by the blood of a Lamb without spot, Your only Son our Lord, Jesus Christ.