I miss knowing summer as a youth.

It was so nice to wake up the first day of summer knowing that my time was not tied up in anything, that there was plenty of space for time outside and time to read. I would get excited about lining books up and buzzing through them.

Now I don’t line books up, I stack them, which might not seem so different for some, but to me there’s something specifically adult about a stack of books. They sit next to my bedside table (and in my kindle, for in my mind they are stacked there too) and wait for me to have time and energy to get through them. I remember times when I read until late in the night because I couldn’t stop myself, I was so eager to get to finish, to know what the end of the book knew. Now I pick up a book before bed and read until my eyes wont stay open anymore (which is usually an embarrassingly short amount of time).

Knowing summer as an adult means I catch myself standing in the big windows at work, looking out and people in their appropriately summer clothes, running here and there shopping, or coming in to buy things to travel with on their vacations, and wishing I was one of those people.

Anyway, I’m managing to do quite a bit of reading right now, even with all of the frustrations of being an adult in the summer time.

Right now I’m reading through The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis for what is probably the fourth time, it’s possible I’ve read it more than that. It’s by far my favorite work of fiction by Lewis. I’m not going to say that every time I read it I learn something new from it, because that’s not true. Every time I read it I come to the  same startling realization that I have forgotten the astounding truths reflected in the story. That somehow, even though they are revolutionary to the soul, I’ve  allowed them to slip away.

One of the most significant of these forgetfulnesses is a story in the book about a man with a red lizard on his shoulder. You’ll forgive me if you aren’t familiar with all the details of the book, you should go and read it, it’s not long. The reader and main character come upon a ghostly man in a struggle with a bright spirit. The ghostly man has a little red lizard on his shoulder that the bright spirit has told him he must allow the spirit to kill in order to become solid and journey to the mountain. The ghost is torn as the lizard whispers in his ear about their attachment and how much allowing the spirit, who’s hands burned with light, to kill him would hurt the ghost and eventually saying that if the spirit killed him, the ghost-man would also die. The ghost struggles, the lizard is so small, he’s been his companion for a long time, and seems not to be a harm. But somehow it seems that at the same time the man knows that the lizard, innocent as he may seem, is sucking the life out of him, and after much struggle eventually gives in, whatever it may cost him, and allows the bright spirit to kill the lizard.

This is the point in the story that I always forget, or misremember, and it’s the most important part.

My mind wants this story to end with the slain lizard revealing it’s true nature as a vicious dragon. It makes sense doesn’t it? Those small things that we become so accustomed to that we fail to see how they have grown and are killing us slowly, but which God can see for what they really are.

But then there you have it… the glimpse of the secret of what our great God can see, which C.S. Lewis was blessed with the ability to recognize and articulate in beautiful ways. The story does not end the way my mind expects it should…

” Have I your permission?” said the Angel to the Ghost

‘I know it will kill me.’

‘It wont. But supposing it did?’

‘You’re right. It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature.’

‘Then may I?’

‘Damn and blast you! Go on, can’t you? Get it over. Do what you like, ‘ bellowed the Ghost: but ended whimpering, ‘God help me. God help me.’

Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I never heard on Earth. The Burning One closed his crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, and the flung it, broken-backed, on the turf.

‘Ow! That’s done for me,’ gasped the Ghost, reeling backwards.

For a moment I could make out nothing distinctly. Then I saw, between me and the nearest bush, unmistakably solid but growing every moment solider, the upper arm and the shoulder of a man. Then, brighter still and stronger, the legs and hands. The neck and golden head materialized while I watched, and if my attention had not wavered I should have seen the actual completing of a man- an immense man, naked, not much smaller than the Angel. What distracted me was the fact that at the same moment something seemed to be happening to the Lizard. At first I thought the operation had failed. So far from dying, the creature was still struggling and even growing bigger as it struggled. And as it grew it changed.  It’s hinder parts grew rounder. The tail, still flickering, became a tail of hair that flickered between huge and glossy buttocks. Suddenly I started back, rubbing my eyes. What stood before me was the greatest stallion I have ever seen, silvery white but with mane and tail of gold. It was smooth and shining, rippled with swells of flesh and muscle, whinneying and stamping with its hoofs. At each stamp the land shook and the trees dindled.

The new-made man turned and clapped the new horse’s neck. It nosed his bright body. Horse and master breathed each into the other’s nostrils. The man turned from it, flung himself at the feet of the Burning One, and embraced them. When he rose I thought his face shone with tears, but it may have been only the liquid love and brightness (one cannot distinguish them in that country) which flowed from him. I had not long to think about it. In joyous haste the young man leaped upon the hours’s back. Turning in his seat he waved farewell, the nudged the stallion with his heels. They were off before I knew well what was happening. There was riding if you like! I came out as quickly as i could from among the bushes to follow them with my eyes; but already they were only like a shooting star far off on the green plain, and soon among the foothills of the mountains. Then, still like a star, I saw them winding up, scaling what seemed impossible steeps, and quicker every moment, till near the dim brow of the landscape, so high that i must strain my neck to see them, they vanished, bright themselves, into the rose-brightness of that everlasting morning.

The truth that is here in this ending weighed against the ending my mind always expects is devastating.

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