“It is not so much of our time and so much of our attention that God demands,” wrote C. S. Lewis in the essay, “A Slip of the Tongue.” But he went further: “It is not even all our time and all our attention.” What else could there be? “It is our selves.”
That’s one step deeper.
You see, we can assiduously carry out our spiritual “responsibilities,” but even all of those, carefully observed, might be little more than external duties if not done from a heart of devotion to Him. Lewis continues,
For each of us the Baptist’s words are true: “He must increase and I decrease.” He will be infinitely merciful to our repeated failures; I know no promise that he will accept a deliberate compromise.
Let us make up our minds to it; there will be nothing “of our own” left over to live on; no “ordinary” life.
To those who may be tempted to think God is being rather selfish with this demand, Lewis explains how one should see this through a different, and positive, lens:
He cannot bless us unless He has us. When we try to keep within us an area that is our own, we try to keep an area of death. Therefore, in love, He claims all. There’s no bargaining with Him.
God, the fount of all knowledge and wisdom, knows we will never be what we were created to be without a full commitment of ourselves to Him. What we call life is actually death; His call to die to self is actually life. That’s not the thinking of the world, of course; that’s why we need a renewed mind.
Lewis lays out a dichotomy for life: the Kingdom of God is on one side of the divide; everything else resides on the other side. Those who don’t choose the Kingdom lose real life regardless of what else they choose.
Will it really make no difference whether it was women or patriotism, cocaine or art, whisky or a seat in the Cabinet, money or science? Well, surely no difference that matters. We shall have missed the end for which we are formed and rejected the only thing that satisfies.
Does it matter to a man dying in the desert, by which choice of route he missed the only well?
All other paths are routes to death, even the ones that seem “good,” if they are what we live for.
As Jesus instructed the “good” man Nicodemus, “”I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
And that’s the only thing that really matters.