The Joy of Desiring: CS Lewis on Desire
"In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you..." -CS Lewis
We are asking the question, "Is there a certain joy that comes merely from desiring?" There is certainly a delight when our desire, or longing, is satisfied, but I believe we all experience a delight in the desire itself. The anticipation is almost as sweet as the fulfillment. Consider the image of a small child looking towards Christmas day ... the hopes and the waiting that precede Christmas day are almost as sweet and palpable as the delight in the day itself.
Lewis understood this delight in desiring. Lewis would use the word sensucht to signify what he considered an "inconsolable longing in the human heart, for we know not what." This inconsolable longing, in the life of the Christian, creates an opportunity for joy on this side of heaven. Lewis says, "the power of desiring is itself a preliminary reward." Lewis knows that God could have created the world to work in a way that tended toward immediate gratification of desires, but instead, he granted us the privilege of being creatures of desire.
Creatures who months later can taste the bottle once opened. Creatures who can remember the buzzing of the street lights that shone down upon a first kiss. Creatures who can still feel the icy chill of a childhood jump into spring fed watering holes.
Lewis believes that our delight in desire reflects a desire for heaven. He says, "Now, if we are made for heaven, the desire for our proper place will be already in us, but not yet attached to the true object, and will even appear as the rival of that object." So, while we can take joy in the delight of being creatures who desire; we must remember that our desiring is a signpost pointing towards the only true object of our deepest desire. He who is the Creator of Desire. He who is King. He who is Christ.
Like Lucy in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, we must realize that what is most desirable about heaven is that Christ is there. Lucy bemoans leaving Narnia and confesses:
"It isn't Narnia, you know," sobbed Lucy. "It's you. We shan't meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?"
While Narnia is wonderful, Lucy realizes that the source of all the wonder and awe in Narnia rise and fall with the presence of Aslan. In the same way, all that makes heaven desirable is located in the person of God.
Without God, heaven becomes hell. Without God, desiring leads to destruction.
So, let us conclude the right way, by quoting Lewis yet again:
"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."
You were created to desire. Go, desire deeply...desire He who can meet your desires.