TO MARY VAN DEUSEN: On the resolution to her question about joining a religious order; on the impermanence of feelings, good and bad; and on the need for the natural love in marriage to die into divine love.
23 July 1953
I think your decision ‘a rule of life, without membership’ is a good one. It is a great joy to be able to ‘feel’ God’s love as a reality, and one must give thanks for it and use it. But you must be prepared for the feeling dying away again, for feelings are by nature impermanent. The great thing is to continue to believe when the feeling is absent: and these periods do quite as much for one as those when the feeling is present.
It sounds to me as if Genia had a pretty good husband on the whole. So much matrimonial misery comes to me in my mail that I feel those whose partner has no worse fault than being stupider than themselves may be said to have drawn a prize! It hardly amounts to a Problem. I take it that in every marriage natural love sooner or later, in a high or a low degree, comes up against difficulties (if only the difficulty that the original state of ‘being in love’ dies a natural death) which force it either to turn into dislike or else to turn into Christian charity. For all our natural feelings are, not resting places, but points d’appui, springboards. One has to go on from there, or fall back from there. The merely human pleasure in being loved must either go bad or become the divine joy of loving. But no doubt Genia knows all this. It’s all quite in the ordinary run of Christian life. See I Peter iv, 12 ‘Think it not strange et cetera.’
The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C. S. Lewis. Copyright © 2008 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.