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 during the process, I learned a whole lot about Narnia, Oxford, and theology. But the thing that impacted me the most was learning about an experience Lewis called 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 and abstract concept, it caught my attention because I had experienced it and never knew what to call it.. 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 college football played on television in the background.
This joy doesn’t happen at the happiest or grandest moments of your life because it’s not happiness. It happens in the ordinary, 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. So you try to soak in the moment, and remember every piece of it. There’s a sense of mystery to these moments. You know there is more than what is seen, more than what is on this earth. 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 in my life, making himself known. 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 always comes from the creator and it always comes through grace. 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: like light through a crack, they are only a taste of what we were meant for and what we were meant to experience forever.
“ If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.” ~C.S. Lewis
How about you?
What are your thoughts of this definition of joy? Have you ever experienced what Lewis describes? Do you believe and live like there is more than what is seen in this world?