CS Lewis continues to amaze me and countless Christians around the world even sixty years after he wrote. I just finished reading one of his more obscure titles, The Great Divorce. It is an interesting take on heaven and hell which he narrates in first person. The whole thing is but a dream from which he awakes at the end, and it is by no means meant to hold any sort of factual bearing on what really happens when we die. But it was also one of the more challenging books I have read recently.
The story starts in Hell, or purgatory, or whatever you want to call it. He and those around him are but mere wisps of ghost-like forms who travel from purgatory to the outer realm of heaven. There they encounter solid, radiant spirits which turn out to be angels whose sole purpose is to get the ghosts to join them in everlasting life.
As Lewis is walking around the vast, open valley, he runs into one of his greatest influences here on earth, George MacDonald, who tries to teach him about the way things are. As they walk and talk, the overhear conversations between other ghosts and angels who are trying their hardest to convince the ghosts to stay and not return. Yet one by one each ghost gives his/her excuse as to why they can’t possibly stay. All of these things are ideas, thoughts, attitudes, disillusionments, and other sins which must be executed in order for them to truly become who they must be. But ghost after ghost is too blinded by his/her sins that they cannot possibly see how they could really live under any other circumstance.
This is the reason for the title, The Great Divorce. Within each of us lies something that is holding us back from becoming who we are truly made to be. It may be selfishness, pride, envy, complacency, discontentment, self-pity, misplaced love, etc. We may feel like we are just created with these thoughts, feelings, and mind-sets, and there is nothing we could do about them. It’s just the way we are. But we must do anything possible to divorce ourselves from these, dig them out of our life, and crucify them. It will hurt. It may even seem torturous at the start, but for anything to really live, it must first die.
“If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” Romans 6:5-8