Longing and Joy and C.S. Lewis


JOY_rachel jones_800

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – C.S. Lewis

I think we are far too easily pleased when we mistake happiness for joy. When we are satisfied with candy corn and Downton Abbey and publishing success (true stories, all). Happiness is not bad but when we stop there, we are like the child making mud pies when French Silk pie is being offered.

Happiness rests in the here and now. It is achievable and leaves nothing to be wanted. Happiness comes with the obtaining of a goal, an object, a person, the passing of a pleasant hour.

Joy is, as yet, unfulfilled and contains within its raptures, a longing for more. Joy speaks of eternal things and infinite perfection and pleasures that never end, that have no commercial breaks, no negative anonymous comments, no comparing of Facebook likes.

Scanning Pinterest or Facebook, desires often stir inside me and I think: If my kitchen looked like that, I would be happy. Or, if I were published in that magazine, I would be happy. I never think those things would bring me joy, but I focus on them more than I focus on the things that do bring joy. I am far too easily pleased.

C.S Lewis also associated joy with longing. He describes joy as “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.”

Joy is that tender, painful something, unnamable, that stirs at the crunch of fallen leaves under foot. Wild geese honking overhead on a gray autumn day. Corn stalks bowing before a gentle warm wind. The crack of thunder and the smell of green grass after the storm. A child’s belly laughter, a baby’s warm breath on your skin.

Joy is the whispered welling up of This. This. I was made for this, I need more of this, eternally this. I call joy the longing for victory over time. It is the desire to cling madly to this space in time and the stinging impossibility of it.

Joy says this is perfect and beautiful and achingly piercing because it isn’t perfect, the beauty fades and the moment slips like water between our fingers, like tears over cheeks.

And so we long for more and the longing fills us up until we dance or cry or fall on our faces in worship and the joy breaks us and then heals us, fills us to overflowing and leaves us so empty we are gasping for more.

“…we were there on the hills…and because it was so beautiful, it set me longing, always longing. Somewhere else there must be more.” – C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

Because joy hurts, even while it pleases, I am tempted to turn from it and dig my fingers into the mud pie. But there can be no true going back after tasting deep joy, there is only a pressing onward for more of it until the glorious day when there will be no end, no fading. There will only be an ever-increasing capacity to inhale the exquisite.

Let us refuse to be ignorant children making mud pies in a slum. Let us relentlessly pursue joy. Let us shout this declaration along with the crunching leaves and honking geese and laughing children:

We will not be too easily pleased. We will have joy.