|TO MRS. JOHNSON: On God’s unique way with each soul, even in the pattern of conversion; and on various Christian nonessentials.
2 March 1955
It is right and inevitable that we should be much concerned about the salvation of those we love. But we must be careful not to expect or demand that their salvation should conform to some ready-made pattern of our own. Some Protestant sects have gone very wrong about this. They have a whole programme of ‘conviction’, ‘conversion,’ et cetera, marked out, the same for everyone, and will not believe that anyone can be saved who doesn’t go through it ‘just so’. But (see the last chapter of Problem of Pain) God has His own unique way with each soul.
There is no evidence that St. John even underwent the same kind of ‘conversion’ as St. Paul. It’s not essential to believe in the devil; and I’m sure a man can get to Heaven without being accurate about Methuselah’s age. Also, as MacDonald says, ‘the time for saying comes seldom, the time for being is always there.’ What we practice, not (save at rare intervals) what we preach, is usually our great contribution to the conversion of others.
From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III
Compiled in Yours, Jack
The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C. S. Lewis. Copyright © 2008 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.