In his own story, Surprised by Joy, CS Lewis tells how he left the faith during his adolescent years and then returned at about the age of 30. As an Oxford scholar and writer, CS Lewis, would later write, “I believe in Christianity as I believe in the sun, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
I think that’s also a good way to see the Bible.
It is not to be an end in itself, but rather a window through which we look at everything else.
Just knowing a lot about the Bible can leave us proud, legalistic, and difficult to be around (1Cor 8:1-2). But when we use the inspired words and story of God the way Jesus himself did, they provide us with the live-changing wisdom through which, like CS Lewis, we too can be “surprised by joy.”
Seems to me that if there is a downside to being raised in a Christian environment, it’s that it is easy to look at the Bible, Christ, and faith in him, as old furniture to be replaced– rather than as windows through which to see the gift of meaning and purpose.
The story of Solomon is an example of how the Bible is a window for me. He was raised in an environment of faith mixed with all of the problems of growing up in a difficult, blended, and very public home. At some point, he took it all for granted and ended up concluding,
“Everything is meaningless… “utterly meaningless!” What do people get for all their hard work? Generations come and go, but nothing really changes. The sun rises and sets and hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south and north, here and there, twisting back and forth, getting nowhere. The rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows again to the sea. Everything is so weary and tiresome! No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content. History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. What can you point to that is new? How do you know it didn’t already exist long ago?” (Ecc 1:1-10 NLT)
Only in his return to the God of gods could he say,
“Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and no longer enjoy living. It will be too late then to remember him, when the light of the sun and moon and stars is dim to your old eyes, and there is no silver lining left among the clouds. Your limbs will tremble with age, and your strong legs will grow weak. Your teeth will be too few to do their work, and you will be blind, too. And when your teeth are gone, keep your lips tightly closed when you eat! Even the chirping of birds will wake you up. But you yourself will be deaf and tuneless, with a quavering voice” (Ecc 12:1-4 NLT)
Yet before it was too late, Solomon did return to the “Law” of God. He concludes his own “memoirs” saying,
“There is no end of opinions ready to be expressed. Studying them can go on forever and become very exhausting! Here is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is the duty of every person. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad” (Ecc 12:12-14).
Finally, with his faith restored, Solomon was at “the window” again.