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A Thistle Cannot Produce Figs

  • C.S. LEWIS

The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self — all your wishes, and precautions — to Christ.

ThistleBut 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  —  centred 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.



C.S. Lewis. "A Thistle Cannot Produce Figs." Mere Christianity. (1952)

Published under fair use. Image credit: Photo by Edward Howell on Unsplash.

The Author

Lewisbook2LewisbookClive Staples Lewis (1898-1963), commonly called C. S. Lewis was a novelist, poet, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, and Christian apologist.  Born in Belfast, Ireland, he held academic positions at both Oxford University (Magdalen College), 1925-1954, and Cambridge University (Magdalene College), 1954-1963.  He is best known both for his fictional work, especially The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy, and for his non-fiction Christian apologetics, such as Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life, Mere Christianity, Miracles, The Weight of Glory, and The Problem of Pain.

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