168. Longing for the mystery of magnificence

Today I feel like writing a letter to all of you. I want to share my heart on something that I have not acknowledged to many people.  I feel like revealing a part of me that is usually hidden, maybe for a long time even from myself.  It was only when I read a piece of beautiful philosophy by CS Lewis that I owned up to the desire that so decisively ruled in me that it was always shaping my world.

I long for beauty.  I have a deep yearning for the splendour, the gorgeous, the downright pretty of this world.  I walk through shops and malls to admire the creativeness of people.  I love art galleries.  I feel good when I have taken time to admire and appreciate.  Now and then I treat myself to a beautiful decorating or fashion magazine just to look and keep on looking in a feeble effort to satisfy a longing so deep and constant that I am accustomed to the feeling of “waiting”.  I listen to a wide range of music.

I also love words.  I read poetry and literature to see how the masters manipulate the alphabet into something incredible.  The comedians play with words, the poets rule with words, the authors dominate with words to the extent that I feel exposed and sad and full of joy and satisfied – all in the same moment.  It is words in their role of speaking the unspeakable that I share this sweet portion of “word-chocolates” with you.

CS Lewis:

In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence: the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves: the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. 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. . .

Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be re-united with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache. . . The whole man is to drink joy from the fountain of joy.

Much of my longing is satisfied in my study of the Bible – without a doubt the highest and most excellent words available to mankind.  The Word of God is so superior to anything man can create, it is an inexhaustible source of beauty with the promise of something to come that is not even mentionable.

But as it is written:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

(1 Corinthians 2:9)

For as long as man walked the earth, the search for wisdom dominated his existence.  The unquestionable certainty to do the right thing at the right time in the right way; to walk (and think) uprightly.

He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; (Proverbs 2:7)

This verse is a treasure in other translations.

He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless. (NIV)

He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity. (NLT)

If I desire anything in life, I desire “a treasure of common sense”.  My mother used to say: Common sense is more valuable than all other sense and not so common at all!

To walk uprightly is to walk in integrity. It is easy to think it is out of our reach.  We so easily succumb to the pressure of the world, but always remember that we are clothed in Christ.  He is our righteousness.  We “hide” in him to shield us from the world.  That is exactly what this verse goes on to say: He is a shield to those who walk in integrity.

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,(Romans 3:21-24)

To walk uprightly is to stay teachable by God. It is most important to know that God does not expect us to hold his high standards, He leads us into his paths and teaches us his will.  Let us have a look at the example of the man David, so many centuries ago, struggling with the sin that ensnared him.

He kicks off in Psalm 32 with these words:

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not imputeiniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit.

He goes on in verse 5:

I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

The result of exposing his sin in prayer, of confessing and receiving forgiveness is a life of victorious living.

You are my hiding place;
You shall preserve me from trouble;
You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah

[Remember Selah means: to pause and calmly think about it]

In verse 8 David writes the words he hears prophetically in prayer and God is talking.  Our spiritual ears open up with the confession of sin.  The channels of communication are cleaned out and God’s voice in our inner man is clear.  God says:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will guide you with My eye

Oh, to have the eye of God on me; to walk in his ways is the life of excellence He promises.

Together we pray this day:  Lord, here am I, opening up my inner being and confessing my desire to be taught by You.  Just like David I bring my sin to you.  Show me how I transgress and disappoint the Holy Spirit, so that your blood can cleanse me from all sin.  I submit to Your way and “see” myself under Your eye.  Thank you that you love me enough to teach me.

Let us rejoice in the last verse of the Psalm.

Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous;
And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

 When we taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34), only then can we see the true beauty of this earth.  We are made lovely when we become the righteousness of God in Christ.

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)






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