Lessons from The Great Divorce and Other Observations

The sensualist, I’ll allow ye, begins by pursuing a real pleasure, though a small one. His sin is the less. But the time comes when, though the pleasure becomes less and less and the craving fiercer and fiercer, and though he knows that joy can never come that way, yet he prefers to joy the mere fondling of unappeasable lust and would not have it taken from him. He’d fight to the death to keep it. He’d like well to be able to scratch; but even when he can scratch no more he’d rather itch than not.

– From The Great Divorce, Chapter 9, by C.S. Lewis

Greetings, friends!

I’ve been doing a wee bit of reading this summer. Okay, that was a really lame attempt at using the Scottish ism “wee,” but it was worth a shot. In fact, it wasn’t even accurate. I have been doing a LOT of reading this summer, because I love books! Oops.

So maybe that fact wasn’t exactly a big secret, but it’s out now, so there. In case you didn’t know (which is highly unlikely considering how much I ramble), I love books.

This past summer my mother and I have been having a bit of a wee competition (I think that was a better usage. Correct me if I’m wrong, Scots). The summer began with my lounging and loafing on the sofa when school was complete and I was off of work. My eyes had grown a bit tired of reading, and, appalled as I was at myself, I didn’t really do too much.

In our family, we’ve always had a tradition of summer reading, and sometimes that includes a race to see how many books we can complete. Well, my mother, seeing my apparent boredom and lackadaisical mannerisms, decided to put my love of books to the test.

Let’s just say she’s lit it on fire.

Her thesis: “We’ll see how much you love books. I betcha I can read more books than you over the whole summer! I want to see how much you really love books – is it genuine, or just for show? If you love books, then read!”


So, read I did. I have practically read my eyes out over the last two months, but it has been so worth it. Like I said, Mom lit my reading spirit on fire, and I will certainly not stop anytime soon! I have been having such a blast diving into other worlds, reading about truth, heroism, strength, and beauty. It’s been a nonstop adventure, and thanks to Mom, it actually got going.

But, just recently, Mom pulled out a book I’d only heard of vaguely but that I had put down on my endless reading list. It was (the esteemed) C.S. Lewis’s allegory The Great Divorce. It’s not about a divorce that went great, so don’t go looking for something else to read. Stay with me.

It’s about ghosts who are trapped in hell (I’m serious, stick with me here). One day, they get a chance to go to heaven in a great big bus that flies (how cool is that, and if you don’t believe Lewis is a genius now, then I don’t know what to tell you). Once in heaven, the ghosts are allowed to decide whether they’ll like it or not and whether they’ll stay or return to the “gray town.”

They are given a second hope.

Mom has actually been reading The Great Divorce aloud to my sister and I. I’ve been on an incredible journey with good old Jack (Lewis’s nickname for those who don’t read too much Lewis), who happens to be the narrator…a ghost himself given the chance to see heaven.

Once in heaven, our narrator meets his guide – an angelic being, who, unlike Jack, is solid. Jack, as a ghost, is obviously transparent and…well…ghostly. By the way, the angel’s name is the Scottish George MacDonald, who is actually a real life author who really impacted C.S. Lewis’s life for the best.

What really hit me hard, however, was when Jack asked whether men could be lost to hell because of sensuality. The word “sensual,” according to Google’s handy dandy dictionary is defined as “of or arousing gratification of the senses and physical, especially sexual, pleasure.”

Even Google’s definition is a little misleading.

When you think about the word sensual, you have to realize that the prefix is “sense.” It’s not saying sexual, it’s saying sense-ual. While sensual is often (and accurately) equated with sexual pleasure, it can also mean a plethora of different things. We have more senses than just our sexual hormones. Remember the six senses from kindergarten? Sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing.

Let me just say this: smelling pizza when you’re hungry and getting excited is NOT sin. Okay? I do that a lot, and you probably do, too. That’s not evil to get excited over food.

However, what I’m trying to get at is this: if any of our six senses (not excluding sexual senses) causes us to stumble or take our eyes off of Christ, it is sensual pleasure. In my own life I’ve seen it. It may not even be a sin, but if it takes our eyes off of our eternal purpose, clouds our minds so all we think of is it, and if it distorts our thinking so that all we do revolves around it, it is sensual pleasure.

When answering Jack, MacDonald says that the “sensualist,” which is a word, prefers to partake of his sensuality rather than experience the joy of the Lord. The burden of guilt and shame and agony come with their pleasure, but they cannot let go of it for the sake of loving it. He says:

…and though he knows that joy can never come that way, yet he prefers to joy the mere fondling of unappeasable lust and would not have it taken from him.

Go and reread what I quoted at the beginning of the post, because that’s what MacDonald says to Jack – the whole paragraph.

When you really think about it, anything can become a sensual snare and take our eyes off of Christ. It may not even be a sin, but it clouds our vision of Christ’s plan. Food. Money. Academia. School. Books. Movies. People. Relationships. Philosophy. Music. Marriage. Sexual love and union in marriage. Travelling. Family. Friends.

Now, think about this: are those things sins? No. No, they’re not. However, when we let them fall out of the context God gives us and fail to see Him in the beautiful things of life, we fall into sensual pleasure. Our eyes are blocked, and all we care about are those things. All we think about are those things. All we want to do are those things.

It’s strange, but it’s true.

We have the freedom in our Lord Jesus to live in this beautiful life, but we must understand that which the Apostle James said in his epistle:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

– James 1:17

Every good thing comes from God, and it should be given thanks for. Our hearts are allowed gladness over beautiful things! We have been made to love others in our relationships and families. We are naturally born to eat food, read and enjoy stories, to listen to music, to live in joy of God’s world.

Remember that book I said I was reading on my “Current Books” page? You know, the one by John Mark Comer? Garden City? Check out what he says about listening to Bach:

Here’s the thing: most of Bach’s music didn’t have any lyrics. It was just really good music. But when you sit back and hear it – it does something to you. It’s like you were sleeping through your entire life and you had no idea, but all of a sudden you wake up and you’re alive. And that deep part of you – that God-craving part – comes to birth, and you start to sense that there’s more. And whatever it is, or he is, you want in.

That’s what glory does.

– From Garden City Chapter 6, “Kavod,” by John Mark Comer

God’s glory can be seen in every beautiful thing we see. Our job is simply to thank him for it. Worship the creator, not the creation. Worship the one who gave it to you, not the gift. Worship the one who blessed you, not the blessing.

This girl I know, Devyn, posted on her Instagram a beautiful picture of a flower. Correct me if I’m saying this wrong, Devyn, but she said: “Sometimes life sucks, so you have to find beauty in the little things like flowers.”

Naturally, I commented a little “amen.”

Because it’s true.

God’s glory can be found in every beautiful thing we do, see, and think about.

Now it’s our job to share that with the world.

Well, I hope you guys liked that inspiration! It was flowing out of me like mad. I had to get it out of me onto this screen or it would’ve driven me batty. Blogging is a beautiful thing for me. I love blogging so much. Thanks for sticking around, followers. Blogging is a treasure from God, so may I always honor Him in all I post.

So, Mom, looks like you did a pretty great thing by making me read all of those books. I’ve loved every minute of it, and guess what everyone?



Yeah, big secret.

My next post will most likely be a Book Spotlight on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Oh my gosh, do I love this book! Eight hundred seventy pages of absolute deliciousness! Ah! It’s so amazing!

Oh my word, do I love gifs. I don’t care how you say gif – they just express your ideas so wonderfully.


Then, my plan after that is to write up another Spotlight post about Shakespeare’s King Henry V which is also being read simultaneously. Harry demands so much attention, though. Sorry, Hal.

Hasta la vista my lovelies!

Will write soon! Feel free to share this post, and I love getting comments, so comment below (der her her).

Hasta Luego,

Emily 🙂

One thought on “Lessons from The Great Divorce and Other Observations

  1. Emily, that was beautiful!! You grabbed my heart and gave it a big hug, love you kiddo. Christ is IT, He’s the whole answer for life! My joy this morning to see and know you know that…


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