Friday, March 18, 2016

CS Lewis on Longing...

Joy. Longing. Restlessness. Yearning. Desire. Heaven-sick. Sehnsucht.

CS Lewis writes in the Pilgrim's Regress: “[T]he longing for that unnameable something, the desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of a bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of, The Well at the World’s End, the opening lines of Kubla Khan, the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves.”  This is sehnsucht.

Further, CS Lewis writes in The Weight of Glory about "this desire for our own far-off country… the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience…Our commonest expedient is to call it Beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter." Lewis argues that what we call nostalgia or romanticism is rather a deep yearning, or longing, for “our own far off country.” Upon reflecting on 1 Corinthians 13:12, Christians believe explains the future reconciliation of all things in Christ as a getting beyond what St. Paul called “looking through a glass darkly.” At that future point, St. Paul states, “I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” Lewis believes, however, that our lives are already haunted by this longing and desire. As a new creation we yearn to possess that reality here and now.

The first is itself the memory of a memory. As I stood beside a flowering currant bush on a summer day there suddenly arose in me without warning, and as if from a depth not of years but of centuries, the memory of that earlier morning at the Old House when my brother had brought his toy garden into the nursery. It is difficult to find words strong enough for the sensation which came over me; Milton’s “enormous bliss” of Eden (giving the full, ancient meaning to “enormous”) comes somewhere near it. It was a sensation, of course, of desire, but desire for what? Not, certainly, for a biscuit tin filled with moss, nor even (though that came into it) for my own past… And before I knew what I desired, the desire itself was gone, the whole glimpse withdrawn, the world turned commonplace again, or only stirred by a longing for the longing that had just ceased. It had taken only a moment of time; and in a certain sense everything else that had ever happened to me was insignificant in comparison. - CS Lewis (Surprised By Joy)

More from Lewis.  The following is Psyche talking with her sister, Orual, in Till We Have Faces:

"Ah, Psyche," I said. "Have I made you so little happy as that?" "No, no, no," she said. "You don't understand. . . It was when I was the happiest that I longed most. . . Somewhere else there must be more of it. Everything seemed to be saying, Psyche, come! But I couldn't (not yet) come and I didn't know where I was to come to . . . I felt like a bird in a cage when the other birds of its kind are flying home.

Here's a song I'd like to leave you with. Andrew Peterson does a masterful job of appealing to this idea of sehnsucht, of longing and yearning, in the following song.  A song I'd heartily recommend.

Don't You Want To Thank Someone

Can't you feel it in your bones
Something isn't right here
Something that you've always known
But you don't know why

'Cause every time the sun goes down
We face another night here
Waiting for the world to spin around
Just to survive

But when you see the morning sun
Burning through a silver mist
Don't you want to thank someone?
Don't you want to thank someone for this?

Don't you ever wonder why
In spite of all that's wrong here
There's still so much that goes so right
And beauty abounds?

'Cause sometimes when you walk outside
The air is full of song here
The thunder rolls and the baby sighs
And the rain comes down

And when you see the spring has come
And it warms you like a mother's kiss
Don't you want to thank someone?
Don't you want to thank someone for this?

I used to be a little boy
As golden as a sunrise
Breaking over Illinois
When the corn was tall

Yeah, but every little boy grows up
And he's haunted by the heart that died
Longing for the world that was
Before the Fall

Oh, but then forgiveness comes
A grace that I cannot resist
And I just want to thank someone
I just want to thank someone for this

Now I can see the world is charged
It's glimmering with promises
Written in a script of stars
Dripping from prophets' lips

But still, my thirst is never slaked
I am hounded by a restlessness
Eaten by this endless ache
But still I will give thanks for this

'Cause I can see it in the seas of wheat
I can feel it when the horses run
It's howling in the snowy peaks
It's blazing in the midnight sun

Just behind a veil of wind
A million angels waiting in the wings
A swirling storm of cherubim
Making ready for the Reckoning

Oh, how long, how long?
Oh, sing on, sing on

And when the world is new again
And the children of the King
Are ancient in their youth again
Maybe it's a better thing
A better thing

To be more than merely innocent
But to be broken then redeemed by love
Maybe this old world is bent
But it's waking up
And I'm waking up

'Cause I can hear the voice of one
He's crying in the wilderness
"Make ready for the Kingdom Come"
Don't you want to thank someone for this?

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Come back soon
Come back soon

By His grace, may we all follow the sound of the megaphone that rousing a deaf world back to childlike longings for Him and for our home.

And this world is truly bent, but I pray we are waking up...

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