"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




maia

In school, they never liked it when you made up your own words. "'Best-est' is not a word," they would chide. However, when you have searched and searched for the right word, and time and again each word you find never quite expresses what you mean, leaving a sinking feeling inside you when what you wanted to say continues to be smothered, perhaps it is time for a new word to enter the language. After all, "the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug" (Mark Twain).

There was a feeling-calling-understanding I kept trying to describe, and, for a while, I tried to use the term “magic.” It epitomized the other-worldlyness of this feeling, the sense that there is something deeper and more wonderful in this life than you ever knew this world could hold. It is the stuff of storybooks and fairy tales, and somehow, incredibly it is real. It is the good magic, the deeper magic, the magic that makes animals talk and true loves meet and castles appear out of clouds. It is the deepest sense of beauty and glory and wonder imaginable. However, many, perhaps most, people do not share this view of magic. They see it as spells and witches, abracadabras and rabbits in hats. I could not use that word.

Then, I wanted to use the term "glory," or "beauty." These were wonderful, Biblical terms and perfectly tied into what I felt was expressed in Scripture. Yet that was their problem. They were Biblical terms. People were used to hearing and using them over and over with no sense of their wonder and magic and stunning beauty and glorious joy. Those words had been killed. I could not use dead words.

I had to use my own word for what I felt, for this feeling was becoming so deeply intertwined in my life and writing that I could no longer go on talking around it. So I chose my own word: maia. Actually, I did not truly make it up, for it means "close to God" in Hebrew. That is no mistake. The soul-explosion of maia, for me, is as close as I have ever felt to God.

Unfortunately, I cannot quite explain what maia is. It is something you have to know feel for yourself. But when you finally grasp what it is, I think you will understand.

Maia is pure life. It is the feeling and calling you sense at your times of greatest joy and deepest sorrow; it is when your entire family is together at Christmas and the fireplace is crackling and the tree is twinkling and nothing matters anymore except that very moment. Yet it is also the feeling of your heart being ripped in two when your dearest friend is stepping on a plane to live on the other side of the world, and she is looking back and raising her hand in one last farewell and you know you may never see her again and your heart screams in anguish—and you are, for a moment, utterly alive.

Maia is living joy. It is when you are dancing and are completely released to the music and everything is in perfect harmony. Your feet are skimming and your heart is flying; you’re not thinking anymore about the movements or what is happening, but have lost your heart in this perfect, exhilarating freedom. It is when you are riding a horse and you are galloping as fast as your mount can run and the trees are flying past you in an ethereal blur and all is perfect balance and glory and power and nothing at all matters but to run.

Maia is wrenching longing—longing for home. For me, this is Narnia. Perhaps a few will understand. I don’t often talk about Narnia to others, for if I say, I long for Narnia, most people smile and nod and say, they do, too. But there is more than that. It’s not the movies or the books or the music or the scenery… in a way, my soul is in Narnia. I was not born for this world; I am a stranger here. My soul never lets me forget it and is always, quietly, looking for the door in the wardrobe.

Maia is the light of a sunset. A sunset has the clouds and the sky and the sun, but clouds and sky and sun do not make a sunset. They do not wrench the heart and say, see, this is what you have been longing for, this is what your tears fall for, this is what your hands reach for. This is what keeps calling your name, over and over, though you know not from where the voice comes. What causes the sunset to tear at the depths of your soul with a gut-wrenching longing is the Light. It is the Light that spills and laughs and dances and swirls, it is the Light that explodes the colors and paints the clouds and touches the trees, it is the Light that turns your soul toward a land you have never seen but for which you were made. That is what I seek, that is what I desire, that is true joy, that is true beauty, that is glory.

That is maia.