Monday, February 17, 2014

Cheerful Insecurity

In one of his letters to a “Sister Penelope” (December 30, 1950), C.S. Lewis writes about the difficulties involved in putting his ailing ‘Mother’ in a Nursing Home (not his actual Mother, but a friend’s Mother, Mrs. Moore).

Our state is thus: my ‘mother’ has had to retire permanently into a Nursing Home. She is in no pain but her mind has almost completely gone. What traces of it remain seem gentler and more placid than I have known it for years. Her appetite is, oddly, enormous. I visit her, normally, every day, and am divided between a (rational?) feeling that this process of gradual withdrawal is merciful and even beautiful, and a quite different feeling (it comes out in my dreams) of horror.

One of the biggest difficulties surrounding this time in Lewis’ life was worry over the financial cost of the services provided for his Mother. He then makes a very interesting distinction between worry and what he calls “cheerful insecurity” that I find fascinating, since I have always struggled so much with worry myself.

There is no denying—and I don’t know why I should deny to you—that our domestic life is both more physically comfortable and more psychologically harmonious for her absence. The expense is of course very severe and I have worries about that. But it would be very dangerous to have no worries—or rather no occasions of worry. I have been feeling that very much lately: that cheerful insecurity is what Our Lord asks of us. Thus one comes, late and surprised, to the simplest and earliest Christian lessons! (The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963).

Lewis doesn’t unpack the distinction beyond what is described here (perhaps he does elsewhere, I don’t know), but from what he says I can gather that it is good for us and our souls to face occasional worries because they remind us of our need. Like “pain receptors” that tell our bodies “something is wrong!” worries tell our souls, “You need help!” Cheerful insecurity keeps us on our toes, keeps us childlike, in dependence on our Father. For that reason, they are cheerful.

I think the apostle Paul would say he has learned to live in cheerful insecurity, for his insecurities and weaknesses provided endless opportunities to know God and his Kingdom grace which empowers us to do what we cannot.

To keep me grounded and stop me from becoming too high and mighty due to the extraordinary character of these revelations, I was given a thorn in the flesh—a nagging nuisance of Satan, a messenger to plague me! I begged the Lord three times to liberate me from its anguish; and finally He said to me, “My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness.” So ask me about my thorn, inquire about my weaknesses, and I will gladly go on and on—I would rather stake my claim in these and have the power of the Anointed One at home within me.  I am at peace and even take pleasure in any weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and afflictions for the sake of the Anointed because when I am at my weakest, He makes me strong. (2 Cor 12:7-10, The Voice)

Jesus lived in the world seeing it as God-drenched and God-bathed. He learned from this that he would always be safe from harm. Nothing could separate him from his Father. May the Master Jesus teach me the same lesson as I bring my worries to him and try with all my might to cast my burdens on his shoulders (it’s very difficult sometimes, let’s be honest!)

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