You Are a Sinner
When it comes to introspection and self-examination, C. S. Lewis is very mindful of the danger that he associates (and not wrongly) with certain strands of Puritanism. This is a view of the Christian life that says the holier you get, the more self-contempt you’ll have, because you’ll be more aware of the sliminess in your heart. As you grow in holiness, you’ll become more aware of your sinfulness, and that awareness leads you to a low view of self, saying I am a cesspool of sin, there are slimy bogs down deep in my heart. That’s just what I am.
Don’t stare at your sinfulness. See it, acknowledge it, be honest about it, and then bring it to God.
Lewis recognizes that feature of certain strands of Christianity, and says That’s not healthy. Yet he’s very careful because, while he thinks it’s unhealthy, it’s not unhealthy because it’s false. It’s true. You are that bad. In fact, you’re worse than you think. But the fact that you have a cesspool of sin down in your heart doesn’t mean you should camp down there. Indeed, that’s precisely what God is trying to lead you out of.
You’re Not Just a Sinner
Lewis commended what he called an “imaginative glimpse.” So, don’t stare at your sinfulness. See it, acknowledge it, be honest about it, and then bring it to God. That sin is what Jesus forgives. That sinfulness is what you have to be transformed out of.
At a very practical level, there’s a deep honesty about who we are and the sin that’s in our heart—the layers upon layers of self-loathing all the way down, coupled with a refusal to live there and to make that the only or fundamental truth.
The fundamental truth is that God says you are righteous in his Son. God is pursuing you. He sees you in Christ. He dresses you up like Jesus and you can come to him the way Jesus does. That’s the fundamental truth, and the other truth—you’re a slimy sinner, a wicked rebel—is meant to drive you to the truth that you’re a beloved son.
At a very practical level, keeping both of those in mind—the glimpse of the sinfulness that then drives you to the mercy of God—is how Lewis is able to maintain the right kind of introspection.
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