Sometimes life is what happens to us when we are planning to do something else. Shortly before his nineteenth birthday C. S. Lewis was drafted and found himself billeted at Keble College, where he found himself sharing a room with Paddy Moore. The two young men promised each other that if either died, the surviving one would take care of the parent of the one who died. Lewis was wounded and returned to England for recuperation. Paddy Moore was not so lucky but was killed in action.
At the end of the war Lewis returned to Oxford to continue his education. Lewis’s brother Warren writes that C. S. Lewis felt a “duty of keeping some war-time promise made to Paddy Moore” and as a result took on what was going to be a life-long association with Paddy’s querulous and demanding mother. Warren wrote of Paddy Moore’s mother that she “interfered constantly with his (C. S. Lewis) work, and imposed upon him a heavy burden of minor domestic tasks. In twenty years I never saw a book in her hands; her conversation was chiefly about herself, and was otherwise a matter of ill-informed dogmatism: her mind was of a type that he found barely tolerable elsewhere.” Lewis faithfully maintained his relationship with Paddy Moore’s mother until her death some thirty years later.
What is amazing is everything else that C. S. Lewis accomplished while under the stress of living in a household dominated by this old tyrant. He was a voracious reader and creative thinker who left an indelible impression on his peers and on generations to come. C.S. Lewis is one of the most prolific Christian authors of the twentieth century. In one of his books during World War II, Lewis tells his readers that the crisis caused by the war shouldn’t hamper them from meeting the more important challenges of life.
There will always be a crisis of some sort. Stress goes away for a while, then changes its coat and comes back again in another guise. Life is what you make of it where you are. In the midst of everything C.S. Lewis grew a habit of steady prayer and scripture reading and developed a special fondness for the Book of Psalms. As his books became popular he prospered and extended his charities to a wide variety of societies and needy individuals. He was a man whose gaze was so firmly on the heavenly city that the hindrances on the immediate horizon faded in importance. Rather than being quelled by his domestic circumstances, C.S. Lewis thrived and blessed us all.
If we wait for circumstances to change before we do the things that we want to do we will have to wait forever. Like C.S. Lewis, instead of being constrained by the crises and stress of everyday life, we face the challenge of stepping forward, right where we are, to meet God’s deeper calling on our lives.