Quotations From SHELDON VANAUKEN


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  • “It is, I think, that we are all so alone in what lies deepest in our souls, so unable to find the words, and perhaps the courage to speak with unlocked hearts, that we dont know at all that it is the same with others.”
    A Severe Mercy: A Story of Faith, Tragedy and Triumph
  • “The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians--when they are sombre and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths. But, though it is just to condemn some Christians for these things, perhaps, after all, it is not just, though very easy, to condemn Christianity itself for them. Indeed, there are impressive indications that the positive quality of joy is in Christianity--and possibly nowhere else. If that were certain, it would be proof of a very high order”
  • “It is not possible to be incidentally a Christian. The fact of Christianity must be overwhelmingly first or nothing. This suggests a reason for the dislike of Christians by nominal or non-Christians: their lives contain no overwhelming first but many balances.”
  • “A man in the jungle at night, as someone said, may suppose a hyenas growl to be a lions; but when he hears the lions growl, he knows damn well its a lion.”
    A Severe Mercy: A Story of Faith, Tragedy and Triumph
  • “He had been wont to despise emotions: girls were weak, emotions–tears– were weakness. But this morning he was thinking that being a great brain in a tower, nothing but brain, wouldn’t be much fun. No excitement, no dog to love, no joy in the blue sky– no feelings at all. But feelings– feelings are emotions! He was suddenly overwhelmed by the revelation that what makes life worth living is, precisely, the emotions. But then– this was awful!– maybe girls with their tears and laughter were getting more out of life. Shattering! He checked himself, showing one’s emotions was not the thing: having them was. Still, he was dizzy with the revelation. What is beauty but something is responded to with emotion? Courage, at least, is partly emotional. All the splendour of life. But if the best of life is, in fact, emotional, then one wanted the highest, the purest emotions: and that meant joy. Joy was the highest. How did one find joy? In books it was found in love– a great love… So if he wanted the heights of joy, he must have it, if he could find it, in great love. But in the books again, great joy through love always seemed go hand in hand with frightful pain. Still, he thought, looking out across the meadow, still, the joy would be worth the pain– if indeed, they went together. If there were a choice– and he suspected there was– a choice between, on the one hand, the hights and the depths and, on the other hand, some sort of safe, cautious middle way, he, for one, here and now chose the heights and the depths.
    Since then the years have gone by and he– had he not had what he chose that day in the meadow? He had had the love. And the joy– what joy it had been! And the sorrow. He had had– was having– all the sorrow there was. And yet, the joy was worth the pain. Even now he re-affirmed that long-past choice.”
    A Severe Mercy: A Story of Faith, Tragedy and Triumph
  • “…though I wouldn’t have admitted it, even to myself, I didn’t want God aboard. He was too heavy. I wanted Him approving from a considerable distance. I didn’t want to be thinking of Him. I wanted to be free—like Gypsy. I wanted life itself, the color and fire and loveliness of life. And Christ now and then, like a loved poem I could read when I wanted to. I didn’t want us to be swallowed up in God. I wanted holidays from the school of Christ.”
    A Severe Mercy: A Story of Faith, Tragedy and Triumph
  • “If its half as good as the half weve known, heres Hail! to the rest of the road.”
    A Severe Mercy: A Story of Faith, Tragedy and Triumph
  • “Goodness & love are as real as their terrible opposites, and, in truth, far more real, though I say this mindful of the enormous evils... But love is the final reality; and anyone who does not understand this, be he writer or sage, is a man flawed of wisdom.”
    A Severe Mercy: A Story of Faith, Tragedy and Triumph
  • “Whatever one of us asked the other to do - it was assumed the asker would weigh all the consequences - the other would do. Thus one might wake the other in the night and ask for a cup of water; and the other would peacefully (and sleepily) fetch it. We, in fact, defined courtesy as a cup of water in the night. And we considered it a very great courtesy to ask for the cup as well as to fetch it.”
    A Severe Mercy: A Story of Faith, Tragedy and Triumph
  • “Between the probable and proved there yawns
    A gap. Afraid to jump, we stand absurd,
    Then see behind us sink the ground and, worse,
    Our very standpoint crumbling. Desperate dawns
    Our only hope: to leap into the Word
    That opens up the shuttered universe.”
    A Severe Mercy: A Story of Faith, Tragedy and Triumph
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