Monday, June 14, 2010

CS Lewis on longing

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.

CS Lewis A Mind Awake

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Brad Hansen said...

Hi, Jean - Trust that this post isn't too late to be pertinent. About C.S. Lewis and longing: Back earlier this year I was preaching from Romans 8 and came to what was for me a noteworthy observation. In the course of about 25 (English) words, Paul uses the word the hope five times. And it has two very distinct meanings. Hope is a verb ("Who hopes for what is seen?"). But hope is also a noun ("For in hope we were saved.") The significance? What God commands is the action of hope. But even as God enjoins hope, he also provides hope - that is to say he puts hope in the human breast,something outside ourselves that speaks to us. As we're told in Ecclesiastes, "He has put eternity in man's heart..." I wonder if what Lewis describes is the hope that God has put in us to help us to engage hope. Just a thought anyway.

Jean said...

It's NEVER too late to comment - even years after posting! Not on this blog, anyway! :)

Interesting thought. The only issue would be that non-Christians feel the CS Lewis type longing too (which he often calls "joy") whereas the "hope" in our hearts is the assurance of our salvation by God's Spirit?? But I like your observation about hope - as you say, God gives what he commands.

Margaret E said...

Love your blog! As a big C.S. Lewis fan, I've always read this passage about longing as being more universal (i.e. not for professed Christians, only). We are made by an eternal creator for an eternal home (even those of us who don't believe it!), so we naturally long for that home. Lewis argues somewhere around this passage that every longing, every human impulse, has a corresponding object to fulfill it. Hunger, thirst, lust, etc... So, he argues, must our longing for our eternal home have a corresponding object. Heaven

Jean said...

Thanks, Margaret.

Yes, I think you're right. According to Piper, "joy" or "longing" in CS Lewis is a technical term for something that's satisfied after you become a Christian. So "joy" was a longing that led him to Christ.

I'd have to re-read "Surprised by Joy" to check this out. I've always thought "longing" or "joy" as CS Lewis used it meant both something Christians and non-Christians feel.

But you're right. I think the emphasis is on a univeral experience of the human heart - something that can only be satisfied by God.