C.S. Lewis, the almost failure


The creator of Narnia almost wasn’t.

His story is well-known: Oxford student, Oxford don, literary genius, prolific writer.

But it almost didn’t happen.

In 1917, C.S. Lewis applied to become a student at Oxford University. Two examinations were required for entering students, one issued by Oxford University, and the other issued by the specific college at Oxford in which the student wished to study. Lewis passed the scholarship examination and was accepted into the college of his choice as a provisional student. But Lewis failed “Responsions”–the Oxford University exam required for all students who wished to study at any of its colleges. Lewis was mathematically handicapped, and the Responsions exam included a section on math.

C.S. Lewis was not accepted to attend Oxford University.

But then, Lewis voluntarily enlisted to serve in WWI–the war to end all wars. On April 15, 1918, Lewis was severely wounded in battle. The injury was not life-threatening, but he could not return to battle. Lewis’ war was over.

As a show of good faith, Oxford University temporarily suspended the Responsions exam for soldiers returning from war to pursue a degree at one of their colleges. The rest is history. If Lewis had not enlisted (and, of course, survived) in WWI, he would not have studied at Oxford. Nor would he likely have taught there, or met Ron Tolkien and the Inklings, or produced the literature that has memorialized him.

Most great people can recount multiple first-hand failures. God delights in writing His story into our failures for our good and His glory.


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