"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing —
to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."

~C.S. Lewis


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

When you've lost your story

Deep within our hearts is an aching longing and desire. It is sad to me how little such longing is spoken of; somehow, it seems wrong or frivolous, yet it is a crucial part of kingdom redemption. This desire is endless longing for a better land, endless aching that you were not meant for this country—an aching that drives you to redeem it, to change it, and to make it a little more like home. We will never quite get there, never "quite get in," as C.S. Lewis says, for we know that ultimately sin runs too deep in creation and can only be removed by having a new heavens and new earth. But until that time, we keep redeeming the land in beauty and glory and in our war against darkness.

I feel I need to defend desire, and it is devastating to me that I need to do so. We have learned to destroy our desire, to hide our heart, instead of guarding it fiercely as the wellspring of life and remembering that true desire may be one of the strongest pulls of the holy within our soul.

Desire is feeling so much longing—the longing you feel when you are supremely happy and yet then aching for the eternal. It is the perfect longing when you see the total glory of this world and the incredible magic in it and love it a thousand times more than you ever did before, yet simultaneously feel your heart is being ripped out for the truer land, the clearer Narnia, the redeemed land where that magic would be made perfect:
When I attempted, a few minutes ago, to describe our spiritual longings, I was omitting one of their most curious characteristics. We usually notice it just as the moment of vision dies away, as the music ends or as the landscape loses the celestial light...You know what I mean. For a few minutes we have had the illusion of belonging to that world. Now we wake to find that it is no such thing. We have been mere spectators. Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us; her face was turned in our direction, but not to see us. We have not been accepted, welcomed, or taken into the dance. (~C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory)
That desire is the reality behind every storybook and every fairy tale. Where do we get the ideas for those places, those lands, those adventures? The desire for More, for adventure and battle, heroism and beauty, and a depth so deep it moves beyond all words cannot just come from within us; we know it is true, somewhere, in some world. It must be rooted in reality, as the feel of it is far closer to memory than to make believe, and we are searching for it with every breath we take. We find it in our world, though dimly, though one day those who have lived in Christ’s glory will see it face to face.

Once, I was snowshoeing through my grandparents’ woods by myself. The flakes seemed the size of cotton balls, eternally silent falling, catching on my eyelashes; it was quiet and beautiful and Christmas Eve. The beauty was so intense, the longing and desire to be within that life I always longed to live so strong, I couldn't speak or even think, and all I could grasp was that it looked just like what I thought Narnia should.

And then, I realized, it was—it is. This is Narnia. That is what I sense sometimes, and this is why people are so drawn to magic and fairy tales and unicorns and fantasy, for it strikes a part of us we think isn’t “real”; we think magic isn't a part of this world, but it is. That is why we love the fairy tales, and that is why we love Narnia—because it reminds us of us—of home—of the story we left but once we knew. Because there is magic in this world, there is something so much deeper; there are miracles and true love and mountains and sunsets and families and dreams that come true. It is truly magic, it is another dimension, there is storybook adventure here in this world, but we close our minds to the dimension of adventure and magic, and we do not see it.

I love Narnia because I love the Narnian dimension of this world. We do not have to search for Narnia and magic and adventure any longer, for it is here, and in the new heavens and earth, it will be perfected; it will truly be magic. Now I see as in a mirror dimly, but then, face to face. I feel wisps of the magic brushing by me, of what life is supposed to be like and was like before we fell, before we lost our story, and what it will be like at the end of time.