I’m a big fan of a dead man named C.S. Lewis. My senior year of high school I wrote a research paper about him, and he explained the mystery of life to me. A large feat? I know. But Lewis put into words a force I had experienced, but never fully understood. Lewis called it joy.
“Joy,” he said, “is a wave of desire for something which you can not even conceive. It is not to be mistaken for either happiness or pleasure, but rather a longing for a longing.”
Lewis experienced this so-called “joy” at the most random and unusual times: while playing with a toy in the garden as a child, reading Norse mythology or simply at the idea of autumn.
Although it seems a weird concept, I knew it to be true because I had experienced it as well. I experienced joy sitting on a blanket one blustery autumn day, in the middle of the night at a rustic camp sitting on a dock, and at a kitchen table eating chili while Gopher football played on television in the background.
This joy doesn’t happen at the happiest moments of your life because it’s not happiness. It’s not about earthly things. It happens in the mundane, in the stillness. It’s that feeling in which you are perfectly content. You don’t know how it hit you, but it did and you never want it to leave.
Yet, you secretly know it will leave. Life could not feel like this all the time. We’re on earth. So you try to soak in the moment, remember every piece of it. You don’t move or think of anything else for fear it will fall away.
There’s a sense of mystery to these moments. You know there is more than what is seen. You can feel it because you are in it and experiencing it with all your senses. You are in the presence of greatness and know you can never fully doubt again because, like Thomas, you have felt it with your own hands.
I know what this greatness is. He keeps showing up, making himself known. Of this I am very grateful. Lewis didn’t learn who this greatness was until he was much older and at first he didn’t make the connection. But he did in time.
Joy manifests itself in many things, and in many ways, but it only comes from one thing. Like art, it expresses itself differently to different eyes. But it’s all from the same source. Lewis spent his life searching for these mere glimpses of joy. That’s what they are: a porthole to what is to come, what is meant to be experienced forever.
They only last a moment here on earth and then reality reintroduces itself. But someday, it won’t just be a glimpse. Someday, I will see more than the light shining through the cracks of the door. Instead it will be thrown open and I will walk into the fullness of the light to see its source. Until then, I’ll keep waiting for glimpses from the source I love.