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Those moments of bliss…

In Uncategorized on November 19, 2012 at 10:38 am

This feeling of bliss fell upon me.  I was in the medieval part of Renne, France.  It was in the afternoon and I was sitting in an outdoor cafe on an ancient street drinking something called Piçon biere.  It’s hard to describe, but I’d call it a moment of bliss.  It didn’t last long, but I thanked God for it immediately because I knew him to be the source.  But what do these moments mean?

In his spiritual autobiography, Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis describes something similar.  Of these moments Lewis says, “the central story of my life is about nothing else.”   Lewis’ recounts three such episodes in his childhood.  The first occurred while the young Lewis, looking at a blooming currant bush, remembered a toy garden he had built in a biscuit tin.  A powerful sensation came over him which he describes as an intense desire.  Lewis senses this to be a supernatural encounter in that, following this brief glimpse, “the world turned commonplace again.”  The second event was through Squirrel Nutkin by Beatrix Potter when Lewis experienced a “trouble” which pointed toward “the Idea of Autumn”; he became “enamored of a season.”  The experience was again, one of intense desire.  The last glimpse occurred through the poetry of Longfellow’s Saga of King Olaf.  Common to each of these experiences is the feeling of “unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any satisfaction.”  He called this sensation Joy.

His description of these encounters implies that this was a meeting with the transcendent for they came “without warning, and as if from a depth not of years but of centuries” (20).

Later, Joy reprises its invitation.  Lewis uses the imagery of a sudden spring to describe the second summons of Joy.  The encounter came with a quote from and an illustration of Siegfried and the Twilight of the Gods which produces the feeling of “pure Northernness,” a deliberately ambiguous term describing the feeling derived from “a vision of huge, clear spaces hanging above the Atlantic in the endless twilight of the Northern summer, remoteness and severity . . . .”  This feeling awakens and fuses with the memory of Joy to create an “unendurable sense of desire and loss.”  He characterizes the feeling as “incomparably more important than anything else in [his] experience.”  From this point in his life, Lewis pursues Joy; he is on a quest to find its source.

A clearer idea of what these experiences may mean was suggested to me at a recent teacher’s convention.  Syd Hielema was talking about looking at our lives using the Creation-Fall-Redemption-Fulfillment paradigm.  I’ve looked at a lot of things with this template, from coffee to zombies, why not myself?

Here are Hielema’s questions:

Creation: How am I wired? What are my gifts? What gives me joy? In what situations in my past have I felt most fully “myself”? (Read Psalm 139:13-14)

Fall: In what ways do sin and fear affect me?  In what ways do I pretend to be someone I’m not?  What interferes with me loving God and loving others?  How do the wounds I’ve received from the brokenness of life affect me? (Read Jeremiah 17:9)

Redemption: Where have I seen God in my life? What helps me and what hinders me in terms of walking with him?  What am I quite clear about and what am I quite confused about?  Are there particular events or people that stand out on my road to Redemption? (Read Isaiah 43:1-2)

Fulfillment:  What might I be like when God has finished his refining work in me?  What might his universe be like?  How might I live anticipating that completion as a new creation?

It’s not very difficult to find creational goodness in ourselves, nor is it very difficult to see how we are distorted by sin.  The movements of redemption are also apparent when we look for them.  But the Fulfillment piece was something I figured was out of my experience–we get that when Christ returns.  But Hielema suggests that we might have the occasional glimpse by which we can extrapolate who we will be when God has finished his work.  And what it will feel like.

I instantly thought of my moment of bliss in medieval Renne. Are those moments that Lewis called encounters with Joy, a small sip of what it will be like when I am made new?

I’m looking forward to the next one.

 

 

KD and Bud and Sex

In False Dichotomies - the lines between on April 27, 2012 at 9:46 pm

Kraft Dinner is an abomination.  I’m not kidding; it disgusts me.  It didn’t used to. When we first moved off campus, my college roommates and I didn’t mind eating it, frequently.  The convenience of the stuff eclipsed all other considerations—taste for instance. We did eventually tire of it, so we changed it up a little. We added a dollop of mustard or diced onions and, of course, hotdogs cut in little pink hockey pucks. These attempts did not really redeem the meal because the core element didn’t change; it was still Kraft Dinner.

A grade 10 student told a colleague of mine that he expected to become a Christian one of these days, but he wanted to have fun first—to enjoy the pleasures of life.  The idea here is, of course, that God is anti-pleasure, and this naive child is not alone in his misundertanding.

C. S. Lewis explores the demonic view of pleasure in The Screwtape Letters.  An experienced demon, Screwtape, offers advice to his nephew, a novice demon, on the use of pleasure to ensnare a human soul.  Screwtape laments that despite their best efforts, the demons have not been able to produce a single pleasure, but pleasure can still be useful if properly degraded.  He tells his nephew, “You must always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure, to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable” for when dealing with any pleasure in its “healthy and normal and satisfying form we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground.”

I wouldn’t call a can of Budweiser an abomination, but it certainly is incapable of delivering the pleasure of  that any selection for your local microbrewery would.

Still, the mass produced lagers are the beer of choice for those who want to want to express their freedom through the “fun” afforded by alcohol.  They don’t drink one or even two, but many.  So they move through the stages from being animated to the fool and on to the pathetic.

One of the best beers I ever had was in Rennes, France. The label said it was Picon Biere and it tasted like oranges.  I was sitting outdoors in the warm sun at around 3 o’clock in the afternoon.  I had nowhere to go and nothing to do.  The street was cobbled. Across the street was a row of 16th century buildings. It was one of those incredible moments of joy.  I think this experience was close to what God had in mind, when he invented hops and barley and yeast (and oranges).

It was the constraints of Christian morality that drove Aldous Huxley to atheism.  He says this of his decision:

For myself, as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom; we objected to the political and economic system because it was unjust. The supporters of these systems claimed that in some way they embodied the meaning (a Christian meaning, they insisted) of the world. There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and at the same time justifying ourselves in our political and erotical revolt: we could deny that the world had any meaning whatsoever.

But how containing is Christian morality?

In his book, Orthodoxy, C. K. Chesterton is puzzled by “the common murmur . . . against monogamy.”  Baffled he asks why people would gripe over the restriction of “keeping to one woman” and overlook the privilege of being able to love even one.

.  .  . crossing the line between freedom and law

I’m not sure exactly where I heard this story. Perhaps it actually occurred in a colleague’s class. Anyway, there was an open an honest discussion of sexuality in one of his classes. One student wondered how long it took . . . how long it took to make love. The teacher wisely responded, “About 50 or 60 years.”

Is Biblical morality really opposed to pleasure?
Is one Picon Biere really inferior to a dozen Buds?
Is the long love to one marriage partner really inferior to many shorter term relationships?

The ingredients for Seafood Macaroni and Cheese are:

  • olive oil
  • large shrimp
  • chopped onion
  • chopped peeled carrots
  • chopped celery
  • garlic cloves, peeled, flattened
  • Turkish bay leaf
  • tomato paste
  • Cognac or brandy
  • butter
  • flour
  • whipping cream
  • Fontina cheese
  • gemelli pasta
  • fresh crabmeat
  • chopped fresh chives

These, properly blended and prepared, have echoes of heaven.