If I am hungry, somewhere there must be bread.
That pang in our stomach, the ache that unsettles us and makes us irritable--and eventually weak--is evidence of a reality beyond ourselves. The stomach is made for food, and even in the absence of food we know its reality. Somewhere, there is food.
Our physical being urges us toward discovery. Not just any discovery, because only food will do. We are made for it, and it for us. A new-born child without a desire for mother’s milk will languish and die. Our loss of appetite is a symptom of a larger illness. In our old age, when our body despairs of life itself, we chose not to eat. Hunger is a sign of life and health.
C.S. Lewis went beyond the example of hunger. “A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. 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.” In another setting he described a “secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name.”
In Surprised by Joy, Lewis gave one name to all these ideas. He called this desire "longing." I’ve learned to recognize it in every sunset, every landscape; in each friendship and each moment of joy shared with another; each thought of a happiness beyond mere circumstance: all of these are longings that point to the place of all fulfillment. That place is a person, a personal, loving, creator who reveals himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Every yearning unfulfilled and each realized joy has one source. I learned this from Dr. Lewis, my first mentor. He was taught by a true father of the Church, St. Augustine, who said simply, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
In the coming week you can begin to hear a song not yet fully sung. You can see a painting that is only a sketch. Every thankfulness on earth can become an invitation to taste of the powers of the age to come. This week, I wish you longing.