Even though I didn’t get the best grades, I loved all of my honors and AP classes in high school. I was especially fond of my AP English classes as both a junior and senior.
The summer before my senior year I had to choose a summer reading book. Mere Christianity was on the list so I chose C.S. Lewis’s magnum opus on Christian theology. I had an entire summer to read that book, but chose to wait until Labor Day. So the day before school started I woke up early and started reading. If we had a BBQ or a party I was unaware, because I spent the entire day in my room reading Mere Christianity.
While trying to read Mere Christianity in one day was like trying to fill a water balloon with a fire hydrant, that day did cement C.S. Lewis as one of my favorite authors and biggest influences. I’ve gone on to read a number of his books and marvel at some of his pithiest and most poignant quotes.
One such quote from The Weight of Glory has always stood out:
It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
I love that quote; it is amazing. I’ve always focused on the part about being a half-hearted creature fooling around with base desires. However, I recently read this quote in its fuller context and it so much more about the joyful desires we can properly have in Christ.
The quote comes from a section in which Lewis discusses selflessness and love. Modern people would set selflessness as the greatest virtue while leaving love behind. Lewis writes, “The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point.”
Love isn’t about denying ourselves but seeking the good of others. I’m a selfish person but God has called me to something so much greater than selflessness. I like to think that by denying myself I’m somehow benefitting the world around me. And while abstinence definitely has its place, Jesus also wants to give us a life of joy and fulfillment.
Like Lewis says, it’s not the strength of our desires that is our downfall. The desire for drink, sex and ambition would pale in comparison if we only stoked our desire for love, joy, peace and hope. We give into the weaker desires without even thinking about abandoning ourselves to our greater desires. Desire isn’t bad in and of itself, but we’ve thrown out the entire bushel because of a few bad apples.
We shouldn’t squelch all of our desires in an attempt to live a selfless life. We should deny those desires that give birth to sin, but fully and wholeheartedly embrace those desires that lead to life. We shouldn’t just stop playing with mud pies, but we should have the most amazing vacation ever during our holiday at the sea.
How do you stoke the desires that lead to life?