You can trace the theme of longing through most of Lewis’ writings. In some places, it is explicit in other places it is implicit. For example, Perelandra does not so much make an argument as much as make you desire and long to experience something of what Lewis wrote. When reading some of Lewis, we often find ourselves hoping what he writes about is true. Lewis’ argument is not really cognitive and logical as much as it is “kardialogical,” that is, reasoned from the heart. As Blaise Pascal said, “The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.”
It is also important here to look at what Lewis meant by longing or desire. Lewis himself said, “From the age of six, romantic longing—Sehnsucht—had played an unusually central part in my experience.” Sehnsucht is a German term that communicates the longing that all of humanity has. It means “longing,” “yearning,” or “craving.” It is a way of saying, “something is intensely missing, there must be more.” Joe Puckett defines Sehnsucht this way:
The aching, and yet pleasurable, intense longing for a life that we cannot yet have but naturally and universally crave. It is the feeling of having lost something that we once had—giving us a sense of homesickness and discontentment with the less-than-ideal world we currently find ourselves in.
Lewis was specially equipped to discuss longing since from a very young age he had experienced such longing and had the ability to write about it with apologetic force in both narrative and essay form. My thesis is that Lewis is correct, our longing does point us beyond this world. Our longing ultimately points us to the Lord and His coming Kingdom.
A treatise on vanity. That is basically the book of Ecclesiastes. What a depressing book. How is a book like that ever to be read and enjoyed, especially with our modern sensibilities? We need stuff that will make us feel good even if it is not the truth, right? Isn’t that what we need? That, at any rate, is what much of society would have us believe.
At first glance, it seems that the book of Ecclesiastes is a book that would throw you into nihilistic depression just short of suicidal. So what use has it in Scripture? Or, what, at least, use do we have for it today?
Well, it does no good to build upon a shoddy and cracked foundation. We can build all we want but all we do is for naught if the building will never truly stand. If we are to truly build something that is worth anything we must start anew. We must strip it down to the bedrock. To say that all is vanity is to say that all is cracked, you cannot build upon it. That is not to say that these things are inherently bad, they are not. But for us to understand these things, whatever they may be for you, we must first know they are desperately cracked. They can never hold anything of substance. They can truly never be built upon. They can’t hold the weight. Thus, if we experience discomfort from Ecclesiastes it is the doctor’s scalpel. It is the necessary pain for the healing of our life.
Redemption: Romance Rebuilt
The world is broken but Christ came to redeem and fix it. Yet we live in the “already and not yet,” the time in between. We have the down payment and first fruits of all that is to come but Christ’s Kingdom hasn’t come to full affect yet. However, we do see what it means to truly love.
In Ephesians 5 we see an amazing picture of how a husband and wife are to relate to each other. We see a paradigm to build upon. We see love, respect, and mutual concern. We see the things that fell out with the Fall of humanity.
We need instruction. We need to be reminded that sex is a gift from God and not god. We need God to help us.
“God wants married couples to know that sex is his gift to them. And God does not give gifts to people so they won’t enjoy them. If God gives you steak he wants you to savor it. If he gives you wine, he wants you to enjoy it. And when he gives a couple sex in the covenant of marriage, he wants them to indulge in it. The NIV translates the end of Song of Solomon 5:1 this way: ‘Drink your fill of love.” Why would he tell us to drink up if he didn’t want us to be fully satisfied?”[i]
So often Christians are known for being boring and unable to enjoy things. But that just isn’t the case. We should be “known for saying ‘do’—do look, do touch, do indulge, do enjoy sexual relations within marriage.”[ii]
Our loving Father has created many good gifts to be received with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:3-4). “God is not stingy with joy when it comes to sexuality. If he gives you a gift, he wants you to enjoy it as it is designed to be enjoyed, which will ultimately lead to your satisfaction, not only with the gift itself but also with himself as the Giver.”[iii]
The Bible teaches that sex is not only a gracious gift but that pure passion is protection against impure passion (Cf. 1 Cor. 7:9).[iv] We see this in various places. Proverbs 5:15-23 says,
“Drink water from your own cistern,
flowing water from your own well.
Should your springs be scattered abroad,
streams of water in the streets?
Let them be for yourself alone,
and not for strangers with you.
Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.
Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman
and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD,
and he ponders all his paths.
The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,
and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.
He dies for lack of discipline,
and because of his great folly he is led astray.”
“Failing to structure frequent sexual activity into your companionship may open you for Satan’s temptations.”[v] Paul says, “Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Cor. 7:5).
However, that does not mean that we have an excuse for sexual sin if we feel like we have been deprived. This passage is not to be used to hold over your spouse’s head to tell them that they have to have sex with you.
New Creation: Our Longings Fulfilled
Sex is great and I thank God for it. But sex is not what life is about. God is what life is about. And soon we shall see Him face to face. Sex is an empty trace of the connection we long for, all the good that we enjoy is a mere pointer. It points us to God for whom we long to unite in fellowship with.
“Sex is a blessing from God. But sex is more than that. It is also a bridge to God. What I mean is that even the highest pleasures are sweetest intimacies are designed to leave us wanting something more. Sex creates a hunger for something infinitely more beautiful, pleasurable, and satisfying: God!”[vi]
Truly, what we as humans “crave more than anything else is to be intimately close to the God who made us.”[vii]
As I said, we are in the “already and not yet.” We have the first fruits but not the consummation. Though we can even now have fellowship with God through the work of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit we still see God in a mirror dimly. We long for our faith to be sight.
In the the beginning Adam and Eve had fellowship with God and with each other. After the Fall the world fell apart, and like Humpty Dumpty it couldn’t be put back together again. Until Christ came. Christ put the world back together. He gave us something that sex could never give: restored fellowship with God.
Brothers and sisters, let’s not get the gift mixed up with God the Giver. Let’s not look for sex to fill the infinite hole that only the Infinite One can fill. It is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, the One who created sex and every good gift, and holds every speck of stellar dust in the universe in His hand that fulfills and gives true life. In His presence there is fullness of joy. At His right hand their are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11).
[i] Chandler, The Mingling of Souls, 139
[ii] O’Donnell, The Song of Solomon, 131.
[iii] Chandler, The Mingling of Souls, 139.
[iv] O’Donnell, The Song of Solomon, 107.
[v] Rosenau, A Celebration of Sex, 5. “Satan tempts and destroys many marriages by extreme inhibitions, extramarital affairs, and other sexual distortions. Often it is subtle drifting apart and a lack of warm, connecting companionship. God has given spouses something precious in the ability as husband and wife to share a physical intimacy that cannot be matched in any other relationship. There is no replacement for what God intended sex to be for intimate marriages. It is a framework for expressing many powerful emotions, like joy, love, trust, and playfulness… Spouses who frequently play together sexually stay together in warm, bonded ways” (Ibid.).
[vi] O’Donnell, The Song of Solomon, 83.
[vii] Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 24.
East of Eden, this trance in which were caught. Serpents all around, lies within, lies without. Death, death, unspoken though it be, prevails. Prevailing misery, wrapped in supposed ecstasy. Whisper, whisper; slither near, they speak the lies into my ear. Sell it all, the order built tall, fails. Embrace it all, accept all, end null. Trudge on and live and die, for what do we expire? Only all we desire. Endless cycle of misery, never free. Eat the apple, embrace the noose. Slither near, oh yes, my dear. Come here, constrict me. Worthless cycle, the viper of this world, strikes fast yet the venom kills slow. How strange, but the hand that feeds me, bites me. Diluted profit, fruitless field, this the futility that we yield. Strive for the Garden, yet we embrace the curse; oh, the contradiction that is humanity.
East of Eden, for a season, the King will soon return. Every foe vanquished, for every thorn a rose. The King, He soon shall reign! Then, the refrain, forever remain, “life, life!” The serpent is gone, we sing a new song forever of our Savior. We ate of the tree, He died on a tree to be the curse we created, and with His death, death’s defeated.
Guided by misdirection
I fall to the grave
In false glory
The story goes on
Repeated with repugnant nausea
O’ for the crash
To hold and make new
O’ for light
O’ dawn blaze
Inflame my gaze
No more night
Set it to flight
True beauty and art subvert the lie whispered in the Garden that roars in cacophonous echo today: “You shall be like gods!”
We walk the path that was blazed by our forebears; we autonomously seek for meaning in ourselves. Yet, periodically we stand before a sunset or Mozart or some other masterpiece and our autonomous walk is halted and we know, we intimately know, and even bask in the fact that we are not god and our good is not in autonomy, it is outside of us. We need. We need God.
In the book of Genesis we read of societal progress. There are advances in technology and the arts. Yet, the problem remains: We have sinful hearts. Thus relationships and truly the world remain fractured. Like humpty dumpty; we can’t put it back together again. The answer to my problem, humanities problem, and the world’s problem is external to us.
One would think that
“Auschwitz destroyed… the idea that European civilization at least was a place where nobility, virtue and humanizing reason could flourish and abound… It seems remarkable that the belief in progress still survives and triumphs… People still continue to this day to suppose that the world is basically a good place and that its problems are more or less soluble by technology, education, ‘development’ in the sense of ‘Westernization.’”[i]
However, today’s problems, like that of all history past, is not solved by advances in technology or even any sort of knowledge or morality. It is solved by a Savior. It is Messiah Jesus that will once and for all eradicate sin and suffering (see e.g. Rom. 11:26-27; Heb. 12:23; 1 Jn. 3:2; Rev. 3:12; 21:1-8, 27; 22:3).
When we control the measures to make a utopian society the way we think it should be, it fails. Whether we control “the stirrings” (e.g. The Giver), emotions (e.g. Equilibrium), everything (e.g. The Lego Movie), or the socioeconomic structure (e.g. The Hunger Games) the result is not paradise; it’s a sort of hell, at least for many. We messed up utopia, we can’t with our fallible minds design a new one. Only our Lord can. He has the only infallible and incorruptible mind. He perfectly balances justice and grace. And He alone can make us and all things new.
So the recent movie and classic The Giver does more than entertain. It teaches us a profound truth, one we would do well to remember: There is no utopian society outside of Christ. We can’t fix it. There have been many botched attempts throughout history. They lay died with their victims.
“Everything is awesome. Everything is cool when you’re part of a team…” As catchy as The Lego Movie song is, it is not exactly right. Everything is not awesome, not yet. However, it will be. But not from our own doing (Notice I am not saying we shouldn’t work for social justice. We should! Yet, it will not bring the ultimate and forever peace that we long for.).
Heaven comes down (Rev. 21:2). We don’t, nor can we, build it here. I am with you and Miss America in saying I desire world peace, yet it won’t ultimately come until our Lord does. When our Lord comes He will wipe away all evil, pain, and tears, not some charismatic leader or government (Rev. 21:1ff). Jesus will make all things new. Jesus will bring utopia.
Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus, come!
Sin is not good. But Jesus is. He will bring the shalom we all desire. Live for Him.
[i] N.T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God, 22-23.