My six-year-old son has learned how to play chess. Well, he has acquired the rudiments of the game at any rate. Parker knows how to move each piece, and he understands the concept of “check” and “checkmate.” His approach, though, remains more defensive than offensive. Naturally, I can win every time, but I allow my son various opportunities to flex some strategic muscle. It’s fun to watch him improve his game.

In his memoir, “Surprised by Joy,” C.S. Lewis employs the metaphor of a chess match to portray the spiritual sparring he engages in with God. As he puts it:

Realism had been abandoned; the New Look was somewhat damaged; and chronological snobbery was seriously shaken. All over the board my pieces were in the most disadvantageous positions. Soon I could no longer cherish even the illusion that the initiative lay with me. My Adversary began to make His final moves. (216)

By “Adversary” he means, of course, his Maker – the One with whom he is battling for the right to his soul. Lewis’ staunch advocacy of atheism slowly begins to erode as God brings wise Christians, not to mention good books, into his life. In this spiritual chess match, God is like a master chess player, arranging the pieces on the board before making his final move.

About this time, Lewis notes:

When I began teaching for the English Faculty, I made two other friends, both Christians (the queer people seemed now to pop up on every side) who were later to give me much help in getting over the last stile. (216)

One of these new Christian friends is J.R.R. Tolkien, who becomes a lifelong friend and colleague. It’s funny to think that Lewis’ first impression of Tolkien was that he was one of “those” queer folks.

When I think back to my own “chess match” with God, I can see how God was moving certain people and situations into my life. What about you?

In the days leading up to your decision to follow Christ, can you think of a particular relationship or circumstance that led you to a place of total surrender? Or have you yet to cross that threshold?
If so, what is holding you back?

By leaving a comment, we can link back to your blog to read more of your thoughts.
For February 1, 2011, we will discuss “A Grief Observed.”

6 thoughts on “Checkmate

  1. D.J.
    What a fun and fitting anecdote about Parker learning to play chess, and how Lewis was out-matched by God.

    I have done a post on Surprised by Joy on my blog and will look forwaard to reading any other posts and/or comments by those participating in the book club.

    Thank you again, for thinking of hosting this. God bless you today. …Marsha Y. at

  2. MY: I can't wait to read your thoughts on “Surprised by Joy.”

    LW21: I'm so excited to have you participate with us! I initially posted on the first of the month, but I wanted to follow it up again with this post. I look forward to reading your blog.

  3. I have blazed through Surprised by Joy – so excited about your CS Lewis book club. Plan to post about this book here shortly. I noticed the references he made to chess, too and looking back over the chapter titles I realized before the “checkmate” chatper he also had a “check” chapter.

    I think more than anything I love to hear or read stories about how people have come to faith in Christ. I posted my own story on my blog quite some time ago, I'll probably link to it again when I write my post on Surprised by Joy. Have you written about your own chess match somewhere here on your blog?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s