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Thursday, June 13, 2024

God Beckons By Magnificence: The place Our Deepest Longings Lead


The longing has stirred deep inside me, I suppose, ever since I’ve been sufficiently old to lengthy for it. It’s an intense, bittersweet eager for one thing unnamed I’ve all the time needed however can’t fairly put my finger on. And it doesn’t a lot stir as stab, putting after I’m not anticipating it — not even searching for it. Then all too shortly, it’s gone, leaving me wanting that pleasurably painful pang once more. I say it’s bittersweet, nevertheless it’s the sweetest factor I’ve ever identified.

Rising up, I don’t keep in mind anybody I knew ever describing this expertise of longing. Nor do I keep in mind attempting to explain it myself. Maybe it’s as a result of English doesn’t have a phrase for it. Or maybe it’s as a result of the expertise is so subjective and what prompts it varies from individual to individual.

However I realized from C.S. Lewis that German audio system have a phrase for it: “Sehnsucht” (Stunned by Pleasure, 6), which implies a wistful craving for one’s homeland when residing out of the country, or a painful pining when somebody or one thing pricey is absent. That will get very near the sensation.

Sehnsucht Mentor

Actually, Lewis not solely gave me vocabulary for this acquainted soul-longing, however he additionally turned my at first trainer relating to its significance. Lights got here on when, as a younger man encountering Lewis’s essay, The Weight of Glory for the primary time, I learn concerning the “inconsolable secret” I carried inside (simply as you do) — “this want for our personal far-off nation” (29). And he defined why we discover this Sehnsucht secret troublesome and awkward to speak about:

We can not inform it as a result of it’s a want for one thing that has by no means really appeared in our expertise. We can not conceal it as a result of our expertise is consistently suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers on the point out of a reputation. (30)

In my childhood and teenage years, I had beloved Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia and his Area Trilogy, little question as a result of they had been seasoned with Sehnsucht. However it was in studying lots of his nonfiction works later that I actually started to grasp why I had this “unhappy want which is itself extra fascinating than some other satisfaction” — an expertise Lewis referred to as “Pleasure” (Stunned by Pleasure, 19).

Lovely Signposts

It’s telling that my expertise of this Pleasure has all the time been stirred by magnificence. Not the whole lot I discover lovely stirs it. And a lovely factor that stirs it as soon as might not stir it once more — actually not each time. Nor can I predict what sort of magnificence will rouse it. However a complete spectrum of beauties may: An previous home lengthy deserted. Clouds in an N.C. Wyeth portray. Orion striding towards a crescent moon, seen on a late-night canine stroll. My granddaughter on the porch, entranced by Narnia, which she found by means of the magical wardrobe of an audiobook. A protracted-past second in Lutsen, Minnesota, frozen on movie, when my then-young youngsters leaped from a boulder, laughing for pleasure.

Lewis incessantly skilled the stab of Pleasure in works of literature. I incessantly expertise it in music. I’ve been stabbed when listening to Wealthy Mullins’s tough demo of “Onerous to Get,” the melancholy cello in Rachel Portman’s “A lot Liked,” Andrew Peterson’s “The Silence of God,” Eva Cassidy’s rendition of “Fields of Gold,” Ola Gjeilo’s “Winter,” and Bob and Jordan Kauflin’s “When We See Your Face,” to call only a few.

After I understand magnificence in such issues, what am I eager for? The deserted home? The clouds? The celebs? The reminiscence? The music? No. It’s one thing else, some magnificence I’m glimpsing by means of them. Lewis explains it this manner:

The books or the music during which we thought the wonder was situated will betray us if we belief to them; it was not in them, it solely got here by means of them, and what got here by means of them was longing. These items — the wonder, the reminiscence of our personal previous — are good pictures of what we actually want; but when they’re mistaken for the factor itself, they flip into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they aren’t the factor itself; they’re solely the scent of a flower we’ve not discovered, the echo of a tune we’ve not heard, information from a rustic we’ve by no means but visited. (Weight of Glory, 30–31)

Or let’s imagine they’re signposts directing us towards the place the place all the wonder comes from.

The place the Signposts Level

After I was round age ten, I keep in mind listening to my father’s report of Christopher Parkening performing Bach’s “Jesu, Pleasure of Man’s Needing” and feeling that bittersweet pang of Pleasure. So far as beauty-signposts go, few are extra apparent — spelling it out within the title. You may suppose I’d have acknowledged the place my longing led, particularly since I got here to religion about this time. However I didn’t — and wouldn’t for an additional decade.

Lewis’s highway to discovery was longer. In Stunned by Pleasure, he describes how he spent the primary half of his life engrossed within the pursuit of Pleasure, experiencing repeated disappointment when it vanished from each lovely object he thought contained it. What shocked Lewis was his gradual realization that it wasn’t Pleasure he desired; moderately, “Pleasure was the wanting.” And “a want is turned to not itself however to its object” (269, italics mine). All alongside, Pleasure had been saying to him, “Look! Look! What do I remind you of?” (268).

Having searched excessive and low, Lewis realized that his want was one “which no expertise on this world can fulfill,” the truth is was “by no means meant to fulfill . . . however solely to arouse . . . to counsel the true factor” (Mere Christianity, 136–37). The best shock of Lewis’s life was when he adopted the route of his otherworldly want and found that it led to the Satisfaction he hadn’t believed existed. All these years he had mistaken the signposts because the sources of his treasured Pleasure, when all alongside they’d been telling him that Jesus was the last word Pleasure of Man’s Needing.

The Final Vacation spot

I name Lewis my “Sehnsucht Mentor” as a result of by means of his writings I gained a vocabulary for my “inconsolable longing,” priceless conceptual readability for what earlier than had been a hazy instinct, and a richer understanding of the heartbeat of the Christian life, which I realized from John Piper to name Christian Hedonism.

And after I learn the final novel Lewis revealed in his lifetime, Until We Have Faces, his remodeling of the Greek fantasy of Psyche and Eros right into a story of Sehnsucht, he gave me one of the vital lovely statements I’ve ever learn, uttered by the character Psyche:

The sweetest factor in all my life has been the longing — to achieve the Mountain, to search out the place the place all the wonder got here from. (86)

I really feel the bittersweet pang of homesickness nearly each time I learn it, “a want for [my] far-off nation,” “a rustic [I] have by no means but visited” however acknowledge as dwelling (Weight of Glory, 29, 31).

House. That’s our inconsolable secret, isn’t it? We lengthy to be within the place the place — or extra precisely, with the Individual from whom — all the wonder, all of the glory, comes from (John 17:3, 24). We’re eager for dwelling, for the Mountain. And all of the signposts that immediate our piercing, bittersweet want inform us that’s the place we actually belong.

I name it bittersweet, nevertheless it’s the sweetest factor I’ve ever identified.

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