I remember finding a used copy of A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis in a back room of a house-turned-flea-market in Natchitoches, Louisiana while I was in college. The price was less than two dollars, I think. I was beginning to venture into the world of Christian thought, and my hunger for truth was strong and wild. Lewis’ name rang a bell in my mind, recalling memories of his Narnia stories. A Grief Observed, if memory serves me well, was my first taste of his nonfiction. I hadn’t a clue what that short book would do to me.
For what do I wait when I wait?
Do I lack the strength to complete
The journey before me? Does fate
Require more merit? Oh, this heat
Makes me restless. How long must I
Stay, unmoving as the process
Purifies me of worldly dye?
How long, O Lord? For I confess
I long to run. This surgery
May mend, but how it hurts me so!
I wonder, would you murder me
To purge the sin which lives below?
(Perhaps tis so.)
When can I go? When will this end,
This sanctification, this flame?
You who eternally transcend
My thoughts and ways, your holy name
Is both my hope and bane. I break
Before your unrelenting hand
Which works to my foundations shake
Until I trust in your command.
So have your way in me, I pray.
Though I may never comprehend
Your purpose, let me near you stay,
O God, the absolute, my end.
Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash
These tests, although they vex us so,
Have no eternal consequence
Save that they serve to stretch and grow
Our faith in God’s omnipotence.
Disrupting our complacency
And any semblance of control,
He opens up our eyes to see
That he alone can make us whole.
He takes from us what we would keep
To give us what we truly need.
All lack of supper, safety, sleep
Recalls to us the ancient creed,
That Christ has lived and Christ has died
And Christ returned to life again,
And God, not sparing him, supplied
Our cause for hope, our good, our gain.
Another chapter closes now, and I
Lay down my pen to catch a bit of breath.
I reminisce o’er days that have gone by
And look ahead to days until my death.
Through weeks and months and years, you did unfold
The plan that brought me to this present time,
And though you took things I had hoped to hold,
Your rule has brought about a better rhyme.
I trust you with the days that are ahead;
I still will follow, though I cannot see.
Perfection bore the wages in my stead;
I do not doubt your daily love for me.
This marker on the road lifts up my face,
A testimony to your truth and grace.
(Photo cred: Jeremy Poe)
My final destination is secured;
Tis fixed within my future by the pow’r
Sustaining all creation ev’ry hour.
And yet the days ahead appear obscured.
By pages and by principles applied,
May I perchance perceive the Father’s plan
(And thus pursue the path by strength of man
And live a life untested and untried)?
No. Faith is forged by following in fear,
Uncertain of the details of the road
Yet certain of the Master’s love and might.
Help me then, Lord, to listen and to hear.
Let me abide in thee in this abode
And learn to walk by faith and not by sight.
Stained with sin but for your grace, I
Long to look upon your face. Thy
Never-failing word commands my
Failing heart to focus. Faith is
Crying, “Father, stoke us. Take this
Weakened will in your hands.” Of his
Life and death and life again, I
Sing, a breath midst strife and sin. Thy
Son resplendent understands my
War with this temptation. Such is
Life till death’s cessation. In this
Hope my salvaged soul stands, all his.
“Further up and further in”
Thus our wand’ring feet must go
Answer “Yes” or answer “No”
Let the journey now begin
Enter now this holy bond
Heaven’s Son lifts up your face
Faultless ‘fore the throne of grace
Father calls and we respond
Whether by our sprint or schlep
We must mount the heights today
There is help along the way
Do not lose your heart or step
Trust the holy Trinity
Evermore in him abide
He will never leave your side
God has won the victory
All you who fear the Lord of all
Have nothing in this world to dread.
Although in time your face may fall,
Eternity will crown your head.
Remember what our God has said,
That evil will not win the day,
For God in Christ for justice bled
And took the weight of law away.
Redeemed, we walk the narrow way
Through valleys cold and forests dark.
Onward we march into the fray
Approaching death, the final ark.
And, as we on this road embark
And set our eyes upon the Son,
We pass the souls who bear the mark
Who from the light of love do run.
These journeys we have just begun,
Yet, shortly, they will be complete.
The wicked, then, will be undone;
The righteous, then, their Savior meet.
All kneel before the judgment seat.
All bow before the Lord’s decree.
All evil he will there defeat.
His glory all mankind will see.
So do not fear the enemy,
Nor worry when he seems to win,
For God will have the victory
And he will make an end of sin.