DCM – C.S. Lewis
Joy in the Journey
Joy. This seemed to be a common theme throughout interim class. Joy has been a rather difficult thing because sometimes I can be too serious, but I was surprised in the many places and ways joy can manifest itself.
We should find joy in our work, in our calling, our vocation. God has called us to many different roles in life, whether it is a daughter, a mother, a sister, a teacher, the family snow plower. In every aspect, whatever our calling, we should be “working as unto the Lord”, as it says in Colossians. To work unto the Lord, we should be “doing well a thing that is well worth doing” (Sayers); we should be enjoying your work for the work itself, not what rewards we will receive upon completing the task. Joy can be found by doing “the work for which he is fitted by nature…and in the fulfillment of his own nature, and in contemplation of the perfection for his work” (Sayers). We find joy because the work fits us. In working solely for the work, we are put our skill and talents to use. Because we know these are God’s, not ours, all praise goes to Him. We can have the satisfaction of having done our best, stewarded God’s gifts, and served His kingdom. I like Even when we are doing so-called unimportant things, we can find joy because they build character and we know it is preparing us for our future callings. As Plantinga says in Engaging God’s World, we learn the skills in order to have more freedom and more ability to solve the problems that come your way (130).
In preparation, for our work, we often learn these skills through education. While skills and education are necessary for future occupations, one must pursue learning simply for the sake of learning. As Lewis says in “Our English Syllabus”, a college student’s “business is to pursue knowledge” (85). People may question the importance of learning and the joy found in it, when there seem to be more important and entertaining things to do that overshadow learning. Students wonder why they must sit through a boring professor’s lecture or why they must still be in a lab at 9:00pm. Joy is found by learning about “’What do I most want to know?’” (Lewis, Our English Syllabus). By delving deeply into a topic, we can marvel at God’s handiwork, his creation, his greatness. Learning can be a duty, our work, our calling, which is glorifying to God, because “an appetite for these things exists in the human mind, and God makes no appetite in vain. We can therefore pursue knowledge as such, and beauty, as such, in the sure confidence that by so doing we are either advancing to the vision of God ourselves or indirectly helping others to do so” (Lewis, Learning in War-Time).
In light of these two things, learning and our future occupations, college students struggle to find the balance. Sometimes they can go together, but especially in our economic times, it is more difficult for most people. They worry about the future. Well, basically everyone worries about tomorrow. But as Christ says in Matthew, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” We do not have to worry because we know God is in control. Instead, we should focus on the present, or eternity, like Lewis describes in Letter XV of The Screwtape Letters:
“He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present—either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure."
We cannot always plan ahead because God can do some crazy things in our lives. was reading Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman, and she listed three things she said she would never do: adopt, home school, and speak in public. But God led her to do those very things, and she has received many blessings and also been a blessing to others as a result of her obedience to God. By focusing on the present, we can find joy. “Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment ‘as to the Lord’. It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received (Lewis, Learning in War-Time). The question we should be asking is not “What am I going to do tomorrow?” but “What am I going to do today to grow? What am I doing to glorify God and encourage others along in their journey as well?”
Plantinga describes each person has having responsibility over a little kingdom within God’s big kingdom. In order to best serve God’s kingdom, we have to work with our neighbors and develop true friendships. We cannot find joy in longing to be part of some group simply to be a part of it because “as long as you are governed by that desire you will never get what you want….The quest of the Inner Ring will break you hearts unless you break it” (Lewis, The Inner Ring). Instead, we can find joy by choosing to spend time with people simply because we enjoy spending time with time. We can find joy by running “the race marked out for us”, helping others to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles”, as the author of Hebrews writes. As Lewis describes in The Screwtape Letters, it is easy for a person to not realize they are wandering from the narrow road; they only have this “vague, though, uneasy, feeling that he hasn’t been doing very well lately.” But as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, it is our job to keep each other accountable. We can find joy by sharing in their happiness and sorrows, in helping each other live in Christ and grow in grace.
All this joy is a result of surrendering to Christ. It is when our will is given to God’s that it “becomes truly creative and truly our own when it is wholly God’s” (Problem of Pain 101). This is shalom, “the way things are supposed to be” (Plantinga 15). And we will only have shalom when Christ returns, when we can finally enter the pearly gates. Even when we are joyous here on Earth, it will not compare to the joy found in heaven. Here, we long for something that we can only see glimpses of in this world, in a glorious piece of music, on a hike through the mountains, in uncontainable falling-off-the chair, belly busting laughter.
“These things – the beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited” (Lewis, Weight of Glory).
That country is heaven. There in heaven we will be able to “be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” No longer will we just look at the beauty; we will be able to look along it. We will be able to experience glory, “good report with God, acceptance, by God, response, acknowledgement, and welcome into the heart of things” (Weight of Glory). We will be able to experience the wonderful pleasure and joy of praise from God; we will be able “to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness…to be loved by God...delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son.” Heaven will be a place where we can be healed from all our pain, sorrow, and suffering and filled with joy for “the whole man is to drink joy from the fountain of joy” (Weight of Glory).
And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
-C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
Holy Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006. N. pag. Print.
Lewis, C.S. “The Inner Ring.” Print.
Lewis, C.S. “Learning in War-Time”. Print.
Lewis, C.S. “Our English Syllabus.” Print.
Lewis, C. S. The Problem of Pain,. New York: Macmillan, 1944. Print.
Lewis, C.S. The Screwtape Letters. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1958. N. pag. Print.
Lewis, C.S. "The Weight of Glory." Print.
Plantinga Jr., Cornelius. Engaging God's World: A Reformed Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002. N. pag. Print.
Sayers, Dorothy. “Why Work?”. Print.