Staff Picks: Our Favorite C. S. Lewis Quotes

It’s C.S. Lewis week here at Faithlife! We’re celebrating the scholar’s life and writings, and with that, discounting the 30-volume C.S. Lewis Collection for one week only.

We asked all of Faithlife to weigh in on their favorite C.S. Lewis quotes, and I’m pleased to share from their responses. They perfectly represent that blend of wit and depth that so characterizes Lewis’ body of work.

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Derek Brown, academic editor:

“Yes,” my friend said. “I don’t see why there shouldn’t be books in Heaven. But you will find that your library in Heaven contains only some of the books you had on earth.”

“Which?” I asked.

“The ones you gave away or lent.”

I hope the lent ones won’t still have all the borrowers’ dirty thumb marks,” said I.

“Oh yes they will,” said he. “But just as the wounds of the martyrs will have turned into beauties, so you will find that the thumb-marks have turned into beautiful illuminated capitals or exquisite marginal woodcuts.”

— from “Scraps” in the collection God in the Dock

Why I picked it: This quote perfectly captures Lewis’ love of literature, whimsical imagination, and profound belief in redemption. And I think he’s right.

 

Seth Copeland, software developer:

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

— from Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Why I picked it: It is the kind of thing Lewis sprinkled all through the Narnia books. These witty humorous thing that the adults reading the books to their kids would chuckle at.

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

— from The Weight of Glory

Why I picked it: If asked for the most famous C.S Lewis quote this one is kind of like answering “Jesus” in kids’ Sunday School.

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

— from The Four Loves

Kaeli Joyce, Mobile Ed editor:

Whatever you do, He will make good of it. But not the good He had prepared for you if you had obeyed Him.

— Ransom, in Perelandra

Why I picked it: Throughout this work Lewis holds God’s sovereignty and human responsibility beautifully in tension. Ransom’s words help me realize the gravity of the meaning of obedience to God in my own life.

 

Virginia Pettit, software developer:

I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of ‘Admin.’ The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern.

— from The Screwtape Letters

Why I picked it: During a church camp in high school some of the camp counselors put on a show that featured a theatrical reading of excerpts from The Screwtape Letters. For me, that’s when a lot of things became real. I feel haunted by them, and I think that’s how we’re supposed to feel.

 

Ian Mundy, software developer:

“You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,” said the Lion.

— from The Silver Chair

Why I picked it: Other than the Bible, The Chronicles of Narnia are the only books from my childhood that I remember my mom reading to me (though I’m sure there were others). This has always been one of my favorite quotes from that series, from maybe my favorite book in it.

 

Steve Runge, scholar-in-residence:

I wonder what has happened. Are you ill—or away—or simply lazy? However, as you wrote to me so perseveringly during my silence (tho’ you must allow that mine was foretold and unavoidable) I will continue to write during yours: and also to prevent a bad habit of silence setting in on both sides.

— from The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, vol. 1.

Why I picked it: I often read from these letter volumes at night when I want to read something but don’t have time for a long work. They are a constant encouragement about finding joy in the moment, cherishing friendship, and just taking the time to be snarky with artful prose when it really doesn’t matter much. This quote is a complaint to spur his pen pal to reciprocate, but that Lewis won’t let the correspondence end simply because it’s not his turn to write.

 

Jennifer Grisham, copywriter:

‘And who are all these young men and women on each side?’

‘They are her sons and daughters.’

‘She must have had a very large family, Sir.’

‘Every young man or boy that met her became her son—even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter.’

‘Isn’t that a bit hard on their own parents?’

‘No. There are those that steal other people’s children. But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more… Every beast and bird that came near her had its place in her love. In her they became themselves. And now the abundance of life she has in Christ from the Father flows over into them…. Already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all the dead things of the universe into life.’

— A scene from The Great Divorce

Why I picked it: This quote from The Great Divorce gave me a vision for my life that I’d never seen before. In this section, a fictional version of George MacDonald tells the main character about Sarah Smith, an unmarried woman who cared for everyone around her so much that her joy became their joy. Oh, to share even half as much of God’s love and life with others as she!

Matthew Boffey, copywriter:

I love real mice. There are lots in my rooms in College but I never have set a trap. When I sit up late working they poke their heads out from behind the curtains just as if they were saying, “Hi! Time for you to go to bed. We want to come out and play.”

— from The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, vol. 3.

Why I picked it: This is from a letter to Hila Newman, a child who sent Lewis some drawings of the characters in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (including Reepicheep the mouse). I love Lewis’ imagination here, and that he—with his brilliant mind and busy schedule—takes the time to share such a silly thought to his and the child’s delight. Reminds us the importance of noticing and delighting in the smallest things (and creatures).

 

Jessi Strong, associate editor of magazines:

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them.

— from The Weight of Glory

Why I picked it: I could paste this whole essay. When I first read it 15 years ago, I felt so heard and understood, like Lewis was telling my own story back to me, and giving a proper name and context to all my feelings of needing to belong and to matter.

 

Liz Roland, program manager:

You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.

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We hope you’ve been enjoying this special week celebrating Lewis’ life and work. There are just a few more days left to grab the C.S. Lewis Collection for 30% off.  The rare sale ends midnight Sept. 24.

 

For more posts about Lewis, see below:

9 Shareable C.S. Lewis Quotes

4 Ways C.S. Lewis Can Shape Your Faith: Insights from a Scholar

3 Simple Reasons You Can’t Dismiss Miracles in the Bible

The Only Three Kinds of Things Anyone Need Ever Do

C.S. Lewis: A Lutheran Appreciation

Why We Do What We Do: C.S. Lewis on Motivation

On Misquoting C.S. Lewis (and Knowing an Author’s Voice)

Comments

  1. Jeremy Hulsey says:

    I wish you all would blow up my inbox with tips and tricks on how to use Logos like you have been with all the C. S. Lewis posts. :)

  2. Chris Goppert says:

    Liz Roland, program manager:

    “You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.

    This Lewis quote was left seemingly incomplete – no end quote.

    Source?

    Thank you.

    Chris goppert

    • Yes, I noticed that there was no source given for this quote. I’ve seen it attributed to the essay collection “Of this and other worlds”, but I don’t own a copy of that book so couldn’t narrow it down any more than that.

  3. Great quotes! I’m surprised no one used:

    “There are no ordinary people.

    You have never talked to a mere mortal.

    Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.

    But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.

    This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn.

    We must play.

    But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.

    And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.

    Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”

    —The Weight of Glory (HarperOne, 2001), pp. 45-46.