Around 11 years ago, I sat down cross-legged in the middle of a room filled with thousands and thousands of college students at Soul Survivor in England. I sat there - like a rock among their trees, their arms swaying like branches to the sounds of songs about a Man I had never met.
I faced a question in that moment: can I believe this? The question was not ‘do I’? It was ‘can I’? Am I able? Is it possible for a rational thinking creature to submit to the belief that their mind is a faulty source of authority?
God moved (as He does) and rescued (as He will) and I was sucked into Him and into this life of a Christian that is messy and confusing.
I resigned myself in that moment to an irrational life. I heard a clear call to surrender my mind, but I missed a crucial detail:
He asked me to hand my mind to Him, not to be destroyed, but to be remade.
I didn’t learn that until two years later, sitting in a bar late at night pouring over Mere Christianity and The Great Divorce and Surprised by Joy.
I was living a life recklessly untethered to the Scriptures and dangerously detached from a church body. But God, in His great grace – kept me near to Him and kept me moving upstream toward those sustaining gifts – through the man whose name is as strange as my own: Clive Staples Lewis.
Over a glass a wine and a worn out copy of Lewis’ essays, the onslaught of my creeping doubts was beaten back – not with my lullaby of mindless faith that I’d been singing fruitlessly over my thoughts – but with solid and gloriously reasonable faith.
I cannot tell you how freedom flooded my soul in those nights, as I realized that God had not called my mind to death for no reason. He had called me to let it die so that it might live. Pouring over Lewis’ words with a highlighter and intense focus I learned that I was made to be a thinking reasonable creature, loving the Lord my God with every scrap of my intellect.
You see, another part of me died when I became a believer: my imagination. All my romantic worlds and wild dreams were given over when I became His. They would no longer define me, no longer shape my destiny.
Laying down my reason that night at Soul Survivor was painful. To my world – to my family and my friends reason was everything. To claim that God was God was humiliating.
But laying down my imagination that night at Soul Survivor was like laying down my own soul. My dreams felt essential, felt non-negotiable, and to concede that God’s reality was more beautiful than the world I could make in my mind – it was like taking a knife to my Isaac.
I still believe that night at Soul Survivor He asked me to hand both my reason and my imagination over to Him.
My heart, my very inner being, was bent and God was intent on straightening it. He took my reason and He took my dreams from me because I needed to be remade, and those things too needed to be rebuilt, refitted to this new creature that I am and that I am becoming.
He emptied me of myself, to fill me with Him and to make me more me than I ever was before.
I have known for some time that there was room for my crazy imagination inside this God of mine. But I have been filled with a trembling fear - careful of who I say it to and with much clarification.
And last weekend God silenced the doubts.
He put me in a room filled with men I respect more than most saints (dead or alive), and He had them confirm for me with the Scriptures – through the life of Lewis – that these worlds of princesses and dragons that dwell in my heart are not just permissible, but designed by my Father for His glory.
And you know what I couldn’t stop thinking about the whole time? How crazy sweet God is.
I kept kind of cocking my head sideways and squinting up to God with something like tearful laughter: C.S.Lewis eh?
Our inside joke. Mine and God’s.
The guy who wrote the stories my atheist dad used to read to me over and over again? The guy who taught me about princes and planets and adventure? The guy whose testimony feels so much like my own? The man who wrote the words me and You used to talk about over wine when You were so patiently teaching me that I could use my mind, my reason to worship You? Same guy, huh? That’s the same guy you want to use to teach me that I can dream for You now?
It makes me sort of laugh-cry even now.
Because, what the world would label coincidence, I can name rightly: the sweet love of a sovereign and good God.