The remarkable and ever fresh C.S. Lewis once said “What does not satisfy when we find it, was not what we were desiring.” On February 17th 2012 I packed up everything that I owned and moved to Miami Florida to chase a desire, follow a dream, and lay hold of what I thought to be a promise of God for my life. Shortly before I left, I traveled throughout Alabama to visit friends and family, yet during that process, ironically, I revisited all of the houses from my early childhood that I once referred to with that most nostalgic and heart warming word “home.”
The very first house I visited was the place that I lived in from the time of my birth until I was three years old. Up until my return, vague memories were my best description of the house. Though it had been over 20 years since I was there, again standing in the living room, I yet felt a surprising familiarity that was all together barren. The house I stood in as a 22 year old man was not the same as the house I crawled in as a 2 year old child. Though the aesthetical appearance was the same, the spirit of it all had changed. The love, the acceptance, and the joy of it was not as I remembered. Everything was the same, yet everything had changed.
Later on that same week I took a detour after leaving church and happened to pass by the home that my family lived in during the time that my mother was a single parent. Though this house was much older and was in a bad part of town, the memories therein were much clearer and distinct, and while standing in the drive way 19 years later the memories seemed to me as a mere dream. Once more barren familiarity, the curse of nostalgia slapping me in the face.
The fourth childhood home I lived located on the banks of Dog River, (one of the final tributaries of the mighty Mississippi) was even easier to remember. There the smell of southern pines, and magnolia blossoms at the waters edge of the muddy riverbank left a scent in my soul I have never forgotten; And yet at that home there was nothing but wood, pillars and shingles. All Materialism, and even not the least lingering echo of a “welcome home.”
The final home that I lived in from the time of middle school through my early college years was by far the most memorable. There I had so many memories, from the daunting mischiefs of my preteen years, to my very own charismatic awakeing I experienced in High school. In spite of the nostalgic visits to the yesteryears of my childhood houses none of them felt like home.
The afore mentioned words of Lewis rang out like church bells, pounding hard on the door of my soul. I had found houses, and nothing more… Yet the ember of belonging was burning steadily within me. The longer I live the more I understand that we all have this insatiable desire for something we have never experienced quite fully. If we were to see it we would know it, but we wouldn’t say we had seen it in all of its glory. We have all had previews of it but we have never fully known it as it is to be known. In the ever eloquent words of Lewis
“You may have noticed (it in).. the books you really love… You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that. Again, you have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life;… Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret attraction which the others are curiously ignorant of – something, not to be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through… Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the best) of that something which you were born desiring, and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for? You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it – tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest – if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say “Here at last is the thing I was made for”…. We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all.”
Our desires seem to always be just beyond the door, somehow ever evading the knock, and escaping before the hinges fully turn. We often find that what we have reached for is not attainable, like the love of the intangible Patrick Sawzye for his mortal and tangible lover in the 1990’s Movie Ghost; We are ever catching glimpses yet never laying hold on that which we most sincerely desire, and passionately love. It is as the Apocalyptic Mystery of the Kingdom of God as being already here but not yet fully complete. What we have tasted has been but glimpses of it… only appetizers to stir up more desire, but never the fullness of that which we have been longing for.
Even in the lesser passion and lusts there seems to be something missing in something that is to be so fulfilling. G.K. Chesterton said “Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.” There is something within us that is always looking to be fulfilled, to be satisfied to be happy, whole and complete. Lewis himself said “Joy is not a substitute for sex; sex is very often a substitute for Joy. I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are not substitutes for Joy.” If sex were the answer and the Summa Bonum of our desires then sex would be enough, and Sigmund Freud would be the Prophet of Objective reality… but sex is not enough, and that can only mean there must be more “what does not satisfy when we find it, was not what we were desiring.”
Bleeding through the realities of this world are the slightest inklings of heaven. “There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.” When we follow the blood trail we can see that it is not evan heaven that we long for… but what heaven has to offer us. The blood trail leads us back to the throne, to the very heart of our purpose, to God himself. Saint Augustine said “ The heart is restless until it rests itself in you oh God.” Only in God can we ever find rest because only for God were we made.
We can only understand the necessity of the answer of God once we understand the complexity of the question for his answer. That question is the question men will work themselves to death trying to answer. It is the very question that philosophers, psychiatrists, poets, scientists and theologians have all made a career of… “what the heck does it all mean” “why I am I here?, what is my purpose?” and consequently it is the only question that cannot be answered by more doing, it is only answered in more being. For our purpose is not an action only, but in a Person wholly Holy.
By God we were made, and For him we are made.
The very essence of our being arises from Him. We exist simply because He wants us to. There are no surprise – uhoo babies to God. Our purpose is not simply in Him, it is Him. While pragmatisms demands a function for our existence, Our Holy God simply answer “I am”, therefor you are. Our purpose is simply Being with him, and that is only possible insofar as we allow him to save us from our sin that separates us from him. We must follow the blood…
Interestingly enough the picture perfect image of salvation according to New Testament eschatology is a marriage covenant. In that covenant we are eternally united to our Purpose, where we are eternally giving ourselves to God, who is the very reason for our existence. This is our purpose, God himself, and marriage to him gives us access to our purpose most effectively and consistently, because it legalizes our eternal unity to him. For it is in Him “we live, move and breathe, and have our being” not in mere objects and actions only, but in Christ the Person.
When I stood on the steps of the houses of my childhood I stood looking for the living amongst the dead. I was looking to Materialism to give what can only be experienced in ultimate unity with God. Those sentiments of love, joy, acceptance and happiness are not found in houses we call home, but in God who is our home. I had confused the vessel of love for the object of love. I was looking at a house, rather than looking along the house as God’s instrument. Like the frequently confounded Disciples of Christ, I stood I seeking bread, when manna from heaven was Himself served before me.
Saint Thomas Aquinas once had a profound experience shortly after completing his life’s work in the Summa Theologica. His confessor reportedly saw him praying alone in the chapel and while St. Thomas was gazing at the crucifix he heard a voice say “Thomas you have written well of me and what now shall your reward be?” to which St. Thomas in the spirit of divine wisdom replied “You alone Lord.”
What more could we ever desire apart from God himself? As Lewis has said “he who has God plus many other things has nothing more than he who has God and God alone.” What can we ever get apart from God that He does not already posses?
What we want is God, and we want to look at him and be eternally satisfied. Such satisfaction is depicted in the image of the beatific vision, where we are forever captured by God who is love. The essential meaning of the beatific vision is to love & be loved in the fullness of beauty, which is itself beautiful. To see something so beautiful that the self is forgotten, that the self is take up upon looking at the “I am”, and self consciousness is dissolved before God Consciousness. That is where we are truly happy, being caught up in the ecstasy of it all where we are literally in complete ecstasy (from the Greek ekstasis = taken out of ourselves) and captivated by the beauty of our God.
Having known all along that Jesus is the answer we need a different perceptive, we need to ask what he is the answer too. He is our answer, but what to what question? Lewis speaks of that question in following light
“The mould in which a key is made would be a strange thing, if you had never seen a key: and the key itself a strange thing if you had never seen a lock. Your soul has a curious shape because it is a hollow made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite contours of the divine substance, or a key to unlock one of the doors in the house with many mansions. The Brocken spectre “looked to every man like his first love”, because she was a cheat. But God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it – made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand”
The question of our purpose, our existence, our function in this world, the Summa Quaestio (ultimate question)… to this end Christ is the Summa Bonum (the ultimate good.)
Whith Christ as the ultimate reason for our purpose we can further conclude that the ultimate purpose in life is to be a Saint; saints give themselves back to God and give him their perpetual fiat (yes to God). We were made by God and for God and he is our ultimate purpose, and that’s why Saints are the express image of Human Destiny, Purpose and Meaning in this life, because they demonstrate that which we were made for…. God.
Since I have lived in Miami, Florida I have often awoken from the midst of deep sleep wondering, worrying, and frantically asking what the heck I am doing here, not just in Miami, but here on planet earth. I have lost hair, sleep, & health worrying about how to answer that question, but I have found that the more I stare into the face of Christ, the more I stare into the beauty of my Lord in Worship, the more my questions like wax melt before Christ the eternal flame, and my heart finds rest simply being with Christ my Lord, My God, and my Home. Having found that which I was not looking for, I found that which I was looking for, my soul’s delight and my heart’s satisfaction. The beloved, who says to me “come away.”
“ Our Hearts are hearts are restless until they rest themselves in you Oh God”- Augustine.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy lade, and I will give you rest”- Jesus, Matthew 11:28.
The Quotable Lewis. C.S. Lewis, Wayne Marindale & Jerry Root. 1990.
The Problem Of Pain. C.S. Lewis 1986.
A Greif Observed C.S. Lewis 2001.
The Philosophy Of Jesus. Peter Kreeft. 2007.
Suma of the Summa. Peter Kreeft. 1990.