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.
I read the book in only a day or two and found myself captivated by the clarity with which Lewis described confusion and pain. His words dripped with truth, pointing the reader not only to self-reflection but to theological reflection as well. In only four chapters, Lewis shared his personal experience with grief, articulating his emotions and analyzing his thoughts in an attempt to process his loss. I was changed, challenged even, by his testimony.
I can’t remember ever thinking that Lewis was arrogantly seeking a name for himself by sharing such an introspective book. In fact, the more I read Lewis, who often wrote with first person pronouns, the more humility I find in him. His willingness to reveal his thoughts, his experiences, and his stories served to highlight the God he worshiped rather than highlighting himself. I believe I love God better because Lewis wrote in the first person.
When I write blog posts, I sometimes question my use of the first person. Even now, I’m looking at how often “I” shows up on this page, and I’m uncomfortable. How much good can “I” really do? How meaningful or profound are my thoughts? How much do I actually know? I personally don’t believe that I have all that much to offer readers. Yet I think of Lewis and of his approach. He wrote, I believe, not to definitively explain matters of Christian thought and practice, but to highlight the truths God had revealed to him. He thought through his faith and then shared his conclusions for the good of any who might follow his line of reasoning. In one book, he wrote that he was simply “‘comparing notes’, not presuming to instruct” (1). He wrote to serve. He shared his thoughts to help others think. And, in my experience, God has used him mightily.
I pray that God so uses me. To that end, I employ the first person voice in my writing. When I speak of my experiences, my thoughts, my realizations, or my questions, I pray you see past me to the God I am growing to better love and to better understand. I pray that my spiritual journey, this learning to walk like Jesus walked, will help you in your walk with the Lord. And I pray that above all else, to echo John, Christ would increase and I would decrease (John 3:30).
(1) Lewis, C. S., Reflections on the Psalms. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2017.
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2 thoughts on “On My Use of the First Person”
I think Lewis was far from seeking to make a name for himself when he was writing A Grief Observed. I think this shown by his use of a pen-name, N.W. Clerk, when the book was published. He did not want his name, or his felt shame, to get in the way of the message he was conveying. I think, as you said, Lewis wrote to share the humility, brokenness, and rehabilitation of a man in grief. Because Lewis was willing to share his journey, and share it with such clarity, many people have been blessed. I know that I was blessed by A Grief Observed.
May God continue to bless and use you.
Absolutely! His transparency and humility has served many. Thanks for reading!