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FaithGateway: Imperfect Faith by Patti Callahan

What Joy Davidman’s Spiritual Journey Teaches Us Today

“If we should ever grow brave, what on earth would become of us?"

This question asked by Joy Davidman does more than beg for an answer, it might also set us off on a spiritual journey that irrevocably alters our lives, which is exactly what happened to Joy, the woman who became C. S. Lewis’s wife.

The award-winning poet and author asked this question months before starting a three-year pen-friendship across the ocean from New York to England, with C. S. Lewis.

As a child, Joy Davidman began her spiritual pilgrimage with the awareness of nature’s beauty; this was the portal and touch point of her relationship to the world and the almost-silent knowing that there was “something more”. When she was fourteen years old, there was a moment in a snowy forest when she thought that the “meaning of all things was revealed and the sacrament at the heart of all beauty was laid bare”. But then, joltingly, she returned to the world and reminded herself that beauty existed, but of course God did not.

It might make sense that she would feel this way, as Joy had no real understanding of God. She was born Helen Joy Davidman, the first-born child, and only daughter, of Jewish Ukrainian and Polish immigrant parents in New York City. Her parents were culturally Jewish, practicing the laws and traditions of the Jewish tradition, expecting Joy to do the same. But by nine-years-old, Joy had read HG Wells, History of the World, and announced to her shocked family that she was an atheist and that nothing existed or mattered but pleasure.

A child prodigy of great intellectual prowess, Joy would not allow herself to believe in the very things she longed for in her reading and in her writing – something greater than herself. It was only later when she admitted that while her persona was hard-boiled and skeptical, her “inner personality” had always been interested in Christ. Her first published poem was an argument with Jesus about His resurrection. And yet she considered herself too intellectual to believe in such mystical fancies outside of the arts. Even as she wanted the fourth dimension in her literature, she remained a staunch atheist. Jesus, she had once claimed, was nothing more than a “valuable literary convention.”

At the young age of nineteen, Joy graduated from Hunter College during the Great Depression and soon joined the Communist party in a “burst of emotion” after seeing a hungry student jump from the top of a College building and commit suicide. She desperately wanted to do something about the state of affairs in the world that she thought unfair. It was in the Communist party that she met and married another writer, Wil