Many may wonder how Joy Davidman Gresham, a card-carrying communist and a sworn atheist, ever became the beloved wife of one of the greatest Christian apologists of the 20th century–C.S. Lewis. It seems an unlikely pairing, but Joy had an experience at the time of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (while she was still married to Bill Gresham), that would obliterate her existing world view forever.
The following is an excerpt from an article about her experience published on Christianity Today. To read the full article, click here.
During the months that followed, atomic dread, postpartum depression, and an unstable husband left Joy physically and mentally exhausted. One weekday in the spring of 1946, the phone rang. It was Bill, calling from his Manhattan office in a panic. “[I’m] having a nervous breakdown,” he told her. His mind was going. He felt paralyzed. He couldn’t stay where he was and he couldn’t bring himself to come home. Then he hung up.
Joy clutched the phone. Bill had a history of suicide attempts. She immediately tried calling him back; he did not answer. After many more phone calls, she contemplated racing into Manhattan and searching on foot. But even if she could get someone to watch the children, where would she go once she reached Grand Central Station? And what if Bill called again while she wasn’t home? What if the father of her children never returned? “By nightfall there was nothing left to do but wait and see if he turned up, alive or dead. I put the babies to sleep and waited.”
Joy’s philosophy had always been “rigid and admitted no thought of God, of religion, of anything outside of dialectic materialism.” A self-assured woman who believed she had all the answers, she was now forced to admit helplessness. “I was not, after all, ‘the master of my fate’ and ‘the captain of my soul.’” Joy had never in her life allowed for defeat. “There is only one final beauty, to be on your feet, and only one ultimate ugliness, to fall to your knees,” she once wrote.
But alone in her room that night, all that changed. “All my defenses—the walls of arrogance and cocksureness and self-love behind which I had hid from God—went down momentarily. And God came in.”
Joy later described that experience: “There was a Person with me in the room . . . a Person so real that all my previous life was by comparison mere shadow play. . . . My perception of God lasted perhaps half a minute. . . . When it was over I found myself on my knees, praying. I think I must have been the world’s most astonished atheist.” It was a moment of grace.
To read the full article, click here.