What might have been — C. S. Lewis, unknown car mechanic

In Surprised By Joy, C. S. Lewis’ brief autobiography, the heralded author tells about the unexpected way he came to the profession of writing.

Like most boys, he longed to work with his hands, to build things and tinker with them. And yet, he found himself hopelessly clumsy in this regard.

“I attribute it to a physical defect which my brother and I both inherited from our father; we have only one joint in the thumb. The upper joint (that furthest from the nail) is visible, but it is a mere sham; we cannot bend it. But whatever the cause, nature laid on me from birth an utter incapacity to make anything. With pencil and pen I was handy enough, and I can still tie as good a bow as ever lay on a man’s collar; but with a tool or a bat or a gun, a sleeve link or a corkscrew, I have always been unteachable. It was this that forced me to write. I longed to make things, ships, houses, engines. Many sheets of cardboard and pairs of scissors I spoiled, only to turn from my hopeless failures in tears. As a last resource…I was driven to write stories instead; little dreaming to what a world of happiness I was being admitted. You can do more with a castle in a story than with the best cardboard castle that ever stood on a nursery table.” (Surprised By Joy, p. 12, emphasis added)

This strange revelation begs a number of questions:

What if Mr. Lewis had been born with normal thumb joints? Would he have ended up an engineer, or an inventor? Would we even know his name? Would there be a Narnia?

And closer to home…what great disappointment in my life or yours might actually be a doorway to a world of sublime happiness…and great blessing to others?

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