In our second installment of books reviews, we turn to an autobiography, A Severe Mercy, where we journey with Sheldon Vanauken in his quest to find the meaning of grief, faith, and the power of God’s love.
Early on, Mr. Vanauken chronicles in wonderful detail the courtship between he, and his wife Jean Davis (“Davy”), as they embark on friendship, romance, and the fulfillment of their dreams together.
The travels of Sheldon and Davy landed them at Oxford University where they were introduced to the esteemed English scholar and writer C.S. Lewis. Inspired by the witness of Christian joy from their peers, and under the guidance of C.S. Lewis, the starry-eyed couple began to inquire more deeply into the meaning of life and the existence of God. They would eventually accept the meaning of Christian doctrine, and Davy’s starry-eyes moved from Sheldon to God; admiring now not just beauty, but it’s Author.
Soon thereafter, tragedy strikes the Vanauken family: Davy dies of a terminal illness. Sheldon tries to make sense of his loss by turning to his companion from Oxford, C.S. Lewis (after failed attempts to understand without God). Out from these exchanges, Sheldon gained the all important insight, “That death, so full of suffering… was yet a severe mercy. A mercy as severe as death, a severity as merciful as love”. Indeed, Sheldon’s deeper conversion into the Christian faith came about because he was dealt a severe blow--a severe mercy.
In a modern culture that typically reduces married love to the human realm of physical attraction and the acquisition of material goods, Sheldon Vanauken’s poignant memoir is a welcomed reminder of the heights of married love in light of faith in Christ. For anyone who wishes to better understand the reality of the tension that exists between human love and the divine love of the cross, A Severe Mercy ought to be a flagship volume for your bookshelf.
What’s more, this book offers up something else in the form of eighteen rich theological and philosophical letters between Sheldon Vanauken and C.S. Lewis. We are acutely reminded that Gods ways are not our ways. If you are seeking to understand how God works in tragedy and in the most trying circumstances of life, I could not encourage enough the reading of this heart-rending read.
Type of Book: Autobiography/Christian Spirituality