Marriage United at the Top

One of our time’s most compelling love stories involves a couple who initially lived an ocean apart. He was a scruffy old Oxford bachelor, a Christian apologist, and an author of bestselling books for children. She, an American, was much younger and divorced with two sons.

After meeting during her visit to England in 1952, C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidson fed their relationship by mail. Intellectual sparks from the minds of each ignited their appreciation and respect for each other. When Joy moved to England with her boys, the relationship enjoyed the benefits of proximity. And when her departure from England seemed imminent because of a lack of funds and an expiring visitor’s visa, C. S. Lewis decided: If Joy agreed, they would be married.

Early in the marriage, Joy’s body revealed a secret it had kept hidden. She had cancer—and it was terminal. The well-ordered life of C. S. Lewis suffered a meltdown. But in the process, the English man of letters realized his deep love for Joy. Moving on with their lives, the Lewises sought and received the added blessing of the church on their marriage, which had initially been formalized in a register’s office.

They gave Joy the best treatment available. Then he brought her home and committed to her care. It is not surprising that Joy’s body responded. However, her remission was short-lived. Near death, Joy told him, “You have made me happy.” Then, a little while after, “I am at peace with God.” Joy died at 10:15 that evening in 1960. “She smiled,” Lewis later recalled, “but not at me.” If there is a lesson to be gained from this unique love story, it must be that partners without a spiritual depth of oneness can never compete with the fullness of love that soul mates enjoy. When it is healthy, marriage has a mystical way of revealing God and bringing a smiling peace to our restless hearts.

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