Real Forgiveness

“Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it. That, and only that, is forgiveness, and that we can always have from God if we ask for it.”

— C.S. Lewis, “On Forgiveness”


(TO VERA GEBBERT, who . . . having read Isaiah 66:9 from the Bible she kept open on her dining table: On not wishing to be pregnant. 23 March 1953)

Your first story (about mistaking [your pregnancy] for seasickness) is one of the funniest I ever heard. In our country there are usually alterations of shape which would throw grave doubts on the sea-sick hypothesis!… but no doubt you manage things better in America. Any way, congratulations and encouragements. As to wishing it had not happened, one can’t help momentary wishes: guilt begins only when one embraces them. You can’t help their knocking at the door, but one mustn’t ask them in to lunch. And no doubt you have many feelings on the other side. I am sure you felt as I did when I heard my first bullet, ‘This is War: this is what Homer wrote about.’ For, all said and done, a woman who has never had a baby and a man who has never been either in a battle or a storm at sea, are, in a sense, rather outside—haven’t really ‘seen life’—haven’t served. We will indeed have you in our prayers.

Now as to your other story, about Isaiah 66? It doesn’t really matter whether the Bible was open at that page thru’ a miracle or through some (unobserved) natural cause. We think it matters because we tend to call the second alternative ‘chance.’ But when you come to think of it, there can be no such thing as chance from God’s point of view. Since He is omniscient His acts have no consequences which He has not foreseen and taken into account and intended. Suppose it was the draught from the window that blew your Bible open at Isaiah 66. Well, that current of air was linked up with the whole history of weather from the beginning of the world and you may be quite sure that the result it had for you at that moment (like all its other results) was intended and allowed for in the act of creation. ‘Not one sparrow,’ you know the rest [Matthew 10:29]. So of course the message was addressed to you. To suggest that your eye fell on it without this intention, is to suggest that you could take Him by surprise. Fiddle-de-dee! This is not Predestination: your will is perfectly free: but all physical events are adapted to fit in as God sees best with the free actions He knows we are going to do. There’s something about this in Screwtape.

Meanwhile, courage! Your moments of nervousness are not your real self, only medical phenomena. All blessings.

The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III

Compiled in Yours, Jack

Regarding Fences With GK Chesterton

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, or that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion. We might even say that he is seeing things in a nightmare. This principle applies to a thousand things, to trifles as well as true institutions, to convention as well as to conviction.

GK Chesterton, The Thing

It Takes One to Know One

“In Francis Thompson’s poetry, as in the poetry of the universe, you can work infinitely out and out, but yet infinitely in and in. These two infinities are the mark of greatness; and he was a great poet.”

Excerpt From

All Things Considered

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

This material may be protected by copyright.

Warsash, 1917

The clotted woods are dim, the day

Ever expires and still expands:

The River finds its wandering way

From what unfathomable lands,

And God who made our hearts so great,

Our little hearts that hold the world,

Hangs this high moment with a weight

Of banners drooping, but not furled.

For we too broaden though we fade,

And we too deepen though we die,

Waste in what fashion we were made

And die of immortality –

And something rooted like the tree

Can hear unquelled, although it quiver,

Ancestral voices of the sea

That call the unreturning river.

Wide windows of the soul enlightened

Of these wide waters and the light –

Seeing whatever stars have brightened

Since eyes of men were sad and bright.

Fear not the dust or dusk hereafter

That darkens this dear land and leaves

The loves that found us and the laughter

Upon so many summer eves.

For not in rains of weeping rotten

Nor choked in thorns of thwarting, ends

The greatness of the unforgotten,

The silence of the pride of friends.

And sad with songs yet good and gay

And weak with no ignoble things

We look on this white waste of day

Where silence is alone and sings.

The clustered trees are all a cloud,

A vision and a voiceless wraith;

Fading in fulness, like a cloud

Of final thoughts that fade to faith:

But richer than the jewelled nights

That build beyond Southampton Bar

A ladder for the harbour-lights

From England to the evening star.

~ Chesterton, 1917

He speaks of good things, he speaks the truth, and he can put it into verse. Those three are monumental. But wait- there’s more; can you see it? He sees things in their true proportion (the big things big, and the small things small), and he does not forget any of the things that God has made. Not only does he make the right marks on a piece of paper, somehow when he hits those notes, an image, like a harmony, springs forth from the page. The picture comes to life, and we are suddenly transported to a larger space, dealing with real things at last. That’s what makes a man golden in my eyes. Few men hit the notes for me like Chesterton does. (Two others are headlined in this group.) Thank God for the golden ones- they show us the way. Not from a pedestal on high, but simply- and beautifully, as fellow travelers and brothers of the road, who have gone before.

~Watergirl 🌸

*Chesterton accompanied Winston Churchill on a trip to Warsash on the Solent. Freda Spencer, Churchill’s cousin and Chesterton’s secretary, fell into the water and was rescued by her cousin, who was inspecting sea-plane production. (The Collected Works, Vol. X, 3)

A Rational Explanation of the Universe

“Orthodox Christianity doesn’t set out to be merely a code of ethics, or merely a set of suggestions for leading a beautiful life. It purports to be a rational explanation of the universe. All the stuff about faith being opposed to reason is misleading: Christianity is rooted in reason, and the first thing it requires anybody to believe is that the universe is intended to, and does, make sense. This is, in a way, the only act of pure faith that it demands: the steadfast conviction that human experience does somehow correspond to eternal truth.”

….. Dorothy L. Sayers, in a letter to a correspondent.