Lewis talks quite a bit about suffering and loss. His earlier, more theologically driven The Problem of Pain and the wanderings of A Grief Observed, as he wrestles with the loss of his wife, each explore the gut of the faithful follower of Jesus, as do other works. Everyone suffers, but the Christian suffers more acutely since his theology has to authentically mingle with everyday life and inform it. He must look to heaven where he finds peace and rest. His longing is not for a reprieve or for a settlement that produces some bargain to a life less in turmoil and more happy.
The Christian wants the will of God… and that will change him. The Christian wants the prodding of God, and that will send him down a path where he is lost enough to let himself be led, realizing that God’s run in Eden, that his backside glory revealed on Horeb to Elijah, that the blindness of Paul on the Damascus Road is the same hunt that is upon his life. It is the hunt to redeem his borrowed breath to the one who sustains him.
My friend, mentor, and Lewis scholar Chris Mitchell died suddenly on July 10. He was the Director of the Wade Center at Wheaton College for a long time. Many of you might know him since his work and lectures on C. S. Lewis have been a helpful guide for faithful living. I was first introduced to Chris through a class on Lewis at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he lectured on occasion. His way was humble and inviting. He helped me find my way from Lewis to Chesterton, serving as my primary reader for a master’s thesis that gave me reason to attend the Wade Center, work with Chris, and, nearly every time, break with him for lunch. Our conversations included Lewis, Edwards, mission work, our families, and life in general. Last we were together, several years ago, he seemed even more anxious to slow down and spend time in study and teaching. I suppose things are slower now since the buzz of the world is now calm.
It was useful for me to return to the reading in A Year with C.S. Lewis for July 10. It’s an excerpt from Mere Christianity. Lewis says that Jesus, “warned people to ‘count the cost’ before becoming Christians. ‘Make no mistake,’ He says, ‘if you let me, I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less, or other, than that. You have free will, and if you choose, you can push Me away. But if you do not push Me away, understand that I am going to see the job through. Whatever suffering in may cost you in your earthly life, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, until you are literally perfect–until my Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less.'”
I am thankful for my friend. I am thankful for his example. I am changed because my life intersected with Chris’s. He knew well that none of us have ever met a mere mortal, and he allowed God to work through him in remarkable ways.
- Laura Schmidt’s reflections
- Facebook Memorial page
- Watch a collection of Mitchell’s lectures on Open Biola
- An audio recording a Mitchell lecture at Wheaton College
- “Still Looking for C.S. Lewis,” (Biola Magazine’s 2013 summer issue)
- An interview between Mitchell and Biola professor Fred Sanders (February 19, 2013)