Local News: The men of Jackson’s Redeemer Church PCA are planning to take part in a weekend retreat at Twin Lakes in Florence during the weekend of January 13-14. For more information, contact Redeemer at (601) 362-9987.
We pick back up now, looking at Joy Lewis’s recently published book of letters.
3. Random Observations
Joy had a strained relationship with her parents, both of whom were sort of hypochondriacs. Her father, especially, was always certain he was on the edge of death. She bore with them, though, and continued, up to her death, to pray for their conversion.
Joy was far more attuned to pop culture than Jack. After all, she spent a year working for MGM in Hollywood and was a regular movie reviewer for the New Masses magazine throughout the 1940s. Her letters make mention of film stars such as James Dean, Boris Karloff, Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman, and Joan Crawford, to name a few, and she mentions movies like Rock Around the Clock and Wizard of Oz. Ironically, her favorite actress was reportedly Claire Bloom, who portrayed Joy Lewis in the BBC version of Shadowlands.
In his 2003 book, C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church, Joseph Pearce argues that had Lewis lived to see Vatican II he might likely have converted to Roman Catholicism. Close friend J.R.R. Tolkien, who was Roman Catholic, had explained Lewis’s reluctance to become Catholic on the grounds that he was misogynistic and was repelled by the Virgin Mary, but Joy doesn’t take that seriously.
Even during his lifetime, there was whispering that Lewis might be closer to Rome than he claimed. In answer to this rumor, Joy said in 1958, “Jack is about as likely to turn Roman Catholic as I am to be made Pope… Jack isn’t even High Church. He’s a tough Ulsterman, after all, half Scot and half Welsh, with the sort of views you expect of an Orangeman—though in his case they’re half humorous.”
It’s a pity that Joy’s comments on this controversy aren’t better known; since they come from a source so close to Lewis, surely they accurately capture Lewis’ actual stance on the denominational question.
It’s somewhat amusing for us Mississippians to hear Joy refer to Bill, a Maryland native, as her “southern husband.”
In one letter, Joy implies that modern-day capitalism, which she continued to distrust even after leaving Communism, is attributable to John Calvin.
4. Joy’s Amazing Fortitude
One of the book’s most rewarding sections are the letters Joy wrote from late 1956 until hear death—the period when she was battling cancer. One gets a glimpse into Joy’s emotional roller coaster. In December 1956, right after receiving the diagnosis, she said, “All of this has strengthened my faith and brought me very close to God—as if I at last knew all the answers.”
By February 1957, she said, “I am trying very hard to hold on to my faith, but I find it difficult; there seems such a gratuitous and merciless cruelty in this. I hope that all we have believed is true.” Within a week, her outlook has brightened: “My prayers for grace have been answered. I feel now that I can I bear not too unhappily what is to come, and the problem of pain just doesn’t loom so large. I’m not at all sure I didn’t deserve it after all, and I’m pretty sure that in some way I need it… I’ll get up, by the aid of will-power and sweat and grace; and if God will let me, I shall walk.”
Her optimism and honesty are refreshing; she doesn’t pretend that as a Christian she has to grin and bear it without admitting it hurts, but she also recognizes that God will use the pain to bring about some good. In a particularly moving letter, written two months before her death, Joy talked of the “mundane” problems of living with cancer: “how to scheme for each step I take, how to sit down in the john and worse yet manage to get up again, how to run a house when I can’t so much as get to the telephone–how to keep going with a grin in spite of pain, and not make myself a dreary nuisance to everyone else. Anybody can die with fine theological sentiments… it’s the daily living that hurts.”
In closing, Joy was, whatever else one can say about her, a loving mother. The majority of her letters revolve around her two boys, and even as she is dying her biggest concern is obviously their welfare, not her own. Joy is a first-rate example of a self-sacrificing mother whose love for her children couldn’t be squelched even in the face of death.