C.S. Lewis, Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University and acclaimed writer, was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century—a rare genius who was not only an acknowledged master of Christian apologetics but the possessor of a vivid religious imagination that created some of the world’s most wonderful and profound fairy tales and space odysseys. The Great Divorce is one of his most beloved works.
The Great Divorce is a fantastic theological dream that opens at a bus stop on the murky streets of Hell. The narrator and a group of grumbling ghosts are taken on a journey by flying bus to a magnificently beautiful place that they realize is the forecourt of Heaven. There the ghosts are met by a number of “Bright People” who try to convince the poor souls to turn away from their ingrained self-perceptions and negative behaviors and choose to change in order to escape their misery in Hell and enter Heaven. Each time, though, the ghosts refuse to stay, and walk back to the bus. They refuse to let go of how they always were in life. This is a fascinating and deeply sad representation of the way a soul, even at the end, clings desperately to its old ways rather than make the choice for life.
There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says in the end, ‘Thy will be done.”
The Great Divorce
I thought a lot about the story of Jesus at the pool of Bethesda. In my mind, I saw Him walking slowly toward me among all of those sick people. They all believed that if they could get into that water, they could be healed. He stepped over many people, stopping and speaking quietly to others, but I couldn’t hear what He was saying. As He got closer, I could see the tears in His eyes. Like the crippled man Jesus spoke to by the pool, I had been lying there for too many years, full of excuses for why I couldn’t get up and move toward healing. When He finally came to me, He said, ‘Betty, do you want to get well?’ and I said, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Then He took my hand and said to me very tenderly, ‘I will give you the strength. Now take up your bed and walk. Do your work.’ I was mercifully brought to a choice between life and death. It was a severe mercy, but it was sweet; and I chose life.