Someone wrote the other day and at the end of the email this quote from C.S. Lewis was attached:
"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing...to find the place where all the beauty came from..."
Maybe C.S. Lewis was looking over his shoulder as he pondered his life. But if we'd care to make the quote our own, we can frame it in the present tense; "...where all the beauty comes from..."
The sweetest thing. Language changes very quickly in the United States, so I may already be out of date, but only a short while ago, a young person would use the word sweet to express delight, surprise, approval or happiness. Admiring a new shirt, hair cut or pretty face, a young person would simply exclaim, "Sweet!"
C.S. Lewis is delighting in the very best aspect of his entire life - the sweetest thing, he says.
But then notice the sweetest thing of his life is not a person, possession, recognition or achievement - but a longing. Longing is an interior thing which suggest emptiness, like a refugee longing to return home.
The word longing is a desire word - a deep desire to be filled, answered, resolved. Aching comes with longing. C.S. Lewis calls this longing, (this ache), the sweetest thing.
And while he says he's longing to find the place, we know it's not a geographical place. He doesn't expect the longing will be satisfied in an executive's office, a throne room, or inner chambers, but in an invisible place, a heart place, a spiritual or interior place where ultimates are encountered.
Longing for the place where all the beauty comes from. Beauty is very hard to define because it isn't a commodity and "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," we say. And beauty comes and goes - like this flower that lasts only one day then it closes up in the evening and is gone.
Maybe there's a beauty that lasts forever, and maybe that's God. But I'd suggest that for many of us who are living harried, fast-paced, inside-all-day lives, we might first start to recognize and enjoy the beauty that's before us right now:
- the layered birdsong I hear through the open window
- the glass of water on my desk; the cup of tea
- the pick-ready black currants in the garden
- the e-mail attached photo of children on vacation
- the July peach
- the scent of dill and strawberries in the produce section
- the 1940's black and white photo of my parents
- the calendar print of the night-illumined church in the snow
- And truth be told ~ we see an awful lot of beautiful people everyday and Bishop Fulton Sheen said, "Just because you look at the menu doesn't mean you have to order."