Monday, February 8, 2010

Piper on C.S. Lewis

If you haven't listened to Lessons from an Inconsolable Soul yet, you should carve out about an hour from your day and do it.  As a die-hard C.S. Lewis fan, I was amazed and encouraged by Piper's masterful treatment of the life and spiritual experience of Lewis. 

One part of the message particularly struck me and that was "the perils of introspection."  It's a long quote, but I think it's worth reading.
"Lewis’s experience in the pursuit of Joy and the mistakes hemade has had a huge effect on the way I think about the assurance of salvation in relationship to introspection and self-examination. What he discovered is that the effort to know the experience of Joy by looking at Joy is self-defeating. He wrote, “I saw that all my waitings and watchings for Joy, all my vain hopes to find some mental content on which I could, so to speak, lay my finger and say, ‘This is it,’ had been a futile attempt contemplate the enjoyed.” 41 It can’t be done, for the moment we step outside ourselves to contemplate our enjoying, we are no longer enjoying, but contemplating. The implication of this for knowing that we are believing God by trying to look at our believing is enormous.
This is our dilemma . . . as thinkers we are cut off from what we think about; as tasting, touching, willing, loving, hating, we do not clearly understand. The more lucidly we think, the more we are cut off: the more deeply we enter into reality, the less we can think. You cannot study Pleasure in the moment of the nuptial embrace, nor repentance while repenting, nor analyze the nature of humor while roaring with laughter. But when else can you really know these things? 42
You cannot hope and also think about hoping at the same moment; for in hope we look to hope’s object and we interrupt this by (so to speak) turning around to look at the hope itself. . . . Introspection is in one respect misleading. In introspection we try to look inside ourselves and see what is going on. But nearly everything that was going on a moment before is stopped by the very act of our turning to look at it. Unfortunately this does not mean that introspection finds nothing. On the contrary, it finds precisely what is left behind by the suspension of all our normal activities; and what is left behind is mainly mental images and physical sensations. The great error is to mistake this mere sediment or track or by product for the activities themselves. 43
What this has meant for me is, first, that I see now that the pursuit of Joy must always be indirect—focusing not on the experience but the object to be enjoyed. And, second, I see that faith in Jesus, in its most authentic experience is suspended when it is being analyzed to see if its real. Which means this analysis always ends in discouragement. When we are trusting Christ most authentically, we are not thinking about trusting, but about Christ. When we step out of the moment to examine it, we cease what we were doing, and therefore cannot see it. My counsel for strugglers therefore is relentlessly: Look to Jesus. Look to Jesus in his word. And pray for eyes to see."
 Bam.  Here was something that applied so thoroughly to me, especially lately.  How often do I spend more time thinking about if I'm loving Steve enough and in the right way and if I'm being a good wife and what makes a good wife than focusing on Steve or just on living my life?  How often do I evaluate how I feel about doing the dishes and the laundry and convincing myself not to feel bad about it instead of just doing the chores?  And even more importantly, how many times do I declare my spiritual life a failure because I insist on focusing on how I'm doing spiritually instead of looking to Jesus?

Convicting?  Yes.  Encouraging?  Definitely.


Miss Alissa said...

Thanks, I really needed to read that.

Amelia said...

It's stuff like this that gets me out of my funks, you know?

Krista said...

Oh, I needed that today, too. Wow. I need to remember this when I get 'terrier brain' - stuck in a pathetic run of thoughts in my head. Thanks, Amelia.

Melinda said...

Great thoughts, Amelia dear!

JRodge said...

Wow! Good stuff. I'll have to listen to the whole thing.
I can't entirely agree that introspection (particularly prayerful introspection) is futile and a waste of time. I think there is great value in opening up to the Spirit's revealing of the thoughts and intents of the heart- understanding what's going on beneath the surface of my emotions and activity (i.e. Ps. 139:19-20 and potentially 1 Cor. 11.) But at the same time, I see the point Piper (Lewis?) is making here. The pursuit is of God- not of consciousness of me pursuing God...if that makes sense...

Amelia said...

Yes, Jen, I agree. I think that people can swing too far in both directions and we need the Spirit of God to lead us in how far we go with our introspection (or lack thereof). From personal experience, I can tell when my introspection veers from examining my heart motives to becoming entirely self-absorbed and depressed. That's why I appreciated this discussion (which, interestingly, is also part of Piper's sermon on Cowper...and I believe that God used it to guide me out of a 2.5 year mental "funk"). Thanks for your thoughts! I enjoy your comments (and your blog).

BeckyLove said...

Praise God for wisdom through new and old sisters (I mean that in reference to your time as Rodgers, NOT age)!

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