The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self — all your wishes, and precautions — to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is remain what we call “ourselves,” to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be “good.” We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way — centered on money or pleasure or ambition — and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly.
And that is what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and resown.
That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.
We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system: because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us. It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through.
He never talked vague, idealistic gas. When He said, “Be perfect,” He meant it. He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder – in fact, it is impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird; it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”CS Lewis, Mere Christianity
Is living out a genuine Christianity hard? I think the most amazing thing CS Lewis is pointing out here in this passage is that yes, it is hard… but going about things in our own strength is far more difficult!
Christ demands all of us. Not just our thoughts, but actions. Not only actions, but faith. Not just our Sunday mornings… our every second. It’s the difference between the thin coat of surface paint and the dye that has seeped all the way through. We are entirely ‘ploughed up and re-sown’ when we surrender our lives to Him, not just made shiny or compliant on the surface.
Lewis talks earlier in the chapter about how taking the seemingly easier path of least resistance is, in the long run, the most dangerous thing. “The laziest boy in class is the one who works hardest in the end,” he writes. Jesus says, ‘pick up your cross’, which is indeed a very hard thing to do. It means we march straight to the death of ourselves, which in today’s culture, seems like a terrible thing. But that self is exactly what Jesus says is our stumbling block. His yoke however, the thing we are actually supposed to carry… He tells us straight away that it is light and without burden.
Hard at first, easier in the long run. Sin gives us the opposite… enjoy now, pay later.
If we could only grasp the heavy truth that it’s the compromise that makes everything a burden for us. The compromise of trying to fit self in with Christ is like struggling around in quicksand, the more we do it, the deeper we sink.
This is why halfsies with Jesus can never work. We can’t go on just being good little eggs. There’s a natural progression to the Christian life that requires we grow into something else entirely. It’s possible not because we are amazingly good and in charge of our growth, but because our Father loves us and has great plans for us when (and if) we let Him do the work. From the moment we give ourselves to Him, the process begins.
Come in out of the wind. You know how it’s hard to breathe in strong winds? Come inside and take a breath. In trying to hold it all together, we wind up more exhausted and wrecked than if we had just made the decision to surrender it all in the first place. Jesus doesn’t look at us eggs and demand we fly. He says surrender to Me, allow me to change you from the inside out, and enjoy growing!
The difficulty in Christianity lies not in carrying Christ’s yoke, but in our stubborn insistence keeping our old one as well. No figs from thistles. No wheat from grass. No flying when we remain in the egg.
It’s a freeing thought that we can put down the to-do list of self help and really, just surrender and receive what He is waiting to give. He makes the change possible. He even makes it enjoyable! He says come in out of that wind kid, you’re trying way too hard. My yoke is easy, the burden of it is light, and I have a rest for your soul which you can’t even imagine (Matthew 11:28-30).
Let Him give you that rest. We resist going all-in because it’s hard and it hurts sometimes, but think about how weird it is to remain an egg forever. How tiring it is to keep slapping on thin coats of paint to keep up appearances. He doesn’t demand we transform overnight, but that we allow Him to start the process.
Go in for the “full treatment”!