Lewis: The Longing for Beauty & Joy

20140808_125732How appropriate, a day after writing about my visit to Wheaton’s Wade Center and researching C. S. Lewis that I would offer you some more of his insights. I’ve been doing this every Saturday and don’t see any reason to stop—his spiritual wisdom shines through everything he wrote. As with last week, I’m going to share more of his famous sermon The Weight of Glory.

In it, as in a number of his works, he explains the inner longing within each person for something “outside” of oneself that brings a deep sense of longing, or joy. Some people, he says, call it nostalgia or Romanticism, but just the fact that the longing exists points to something beyond the longing. We must realize, though, that whatever we remember from our past that sparked this longing is merely a remembrance, and not the “thing” itself. We find this joy only through union with Christ:

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing.

These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am, but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years.

That inner longing does come from God, and it is not to be dismissed. What should be dismissed, however, is the idea that it can be fulfilled through anything the world has to offer. Once that enchantment is dissolved, we can see the real Source of the longing and find its fulfillment in Him.