C.S. Lewis. The Great Divorce. (Harper Collins,1973)
I've read this book a few times in my life, I rarely read fiction more than once, but some books are worth a revisit. The great divorce is one of them. I read it when I was eighteen years old in one sitting. I could not go to sleep until the book was finished. It was deeply frightening then, though immensely entertaining. Lewis' insight into humanity was profound. He was evidently deeply influenced by the puritans and the catholic spiritual writers in terms of cases of conscience. He was able to discern how Biblical commands such as familial love and human goods such as pleasure in eating could become absurd caricatures and idolatrous little lies.
The great divorce is a fictional tale of a bus ride from Hell into Heaven and the struggles of people who do not want to be there though their family members beckon them. Particularly gripping was the story of a woman who is so self-absorbed in the raising of her son that she never actually loved him, but merely used him for her own ends and thereby forfeited her ability to receive grace from others as well as love God for his own sake (chapter 11). This exchange really shows the absurdity of what often passes as love:
Because it is a fictional tale, I'll leave the rest of the story, but it suffices to say, she make motherhood absolute in her life, not God. Her self shrank to the point of being unable to enjoy anything but her own little self as its will was accomplished. If anything is made ultimate in the life of anybody, that thing becomes an idol because God did not make things to bear the weight of worship. Only he can do so. I highly recommend this book, it is a frightening examination of our deepest desires and extremely good fiction.“You wouldn't talk like that if you were a mother.”“You mean, if I were only a mother. But there is no such thing as being only a mother. You exist as Michael's mother only because you first exist as God's creature. That relation is older and closer. No, listen, Pam! He also loves. He also has suffered. He also has waited a long time.”“If He loved me, He'd let me see my boy. If He loved me, why did He take Michael away from me? I wasn't going to say anything about that. But it's pretty hard to forgive, you know.”“But He had to take Michael away. Partly for Michael's sake...”“I'm sure I did my best to make Michael happy. I gave up my whole life...”