How do I find joy?
Deep joy is derived from and captivated by deep love: deep desires. Or, the aim of my desire shapes my joy. Emerson once penned, That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.
Emerson sings a tune similar to a new favorite author of mine, James K.A. Smith. Smith has observed, We love, therefore, we are.¹ If Smith is right, then to desire is to be human. If Emerson is right, then our desires also have an aim, a trajectory, an end. If I am right, then our joy is contingent upon both. Centuries ago Saint Augustine noticed this reality in the natural world and wrote, My love is my weight! I am borne about by it, wheresoever I am borne.²
Hmm . . . My love (desire) is my ‘weight.’ Yes. Of course! Other greats, such as C. S. Lewis, have grasped this as well.
In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace, along with his cousins Lucy and Edmund, slip through a ‘portal’ and find themselves suddenly swimming in a Narnian Sea. Rescued by the crew, they join (Eustace reluctantly so) Caspian’s adventure to the distant Islands in the hopes of restoring the lost Narnian Kings.
A desire shaping adventure begins when Eustace stumbles upon a dragon. Eustace watches from a distance as the dragon dies (of old age) in the meadow before him. Drawn to the dragon’s lair, which is tucked away in a cave, Eustace discovers treasures beyond his wildest imagination. He fills his hands and stuffs his pockets. The reader hears only his thoughts of how he hopes to evade notice and keep the treasure for himself. Wearied by his pursuit, Eustace succumbs to fatigue and falls into a deep sleep.
As he sleeps, he becomes a dragon. He becomes his love. He becomes miserable. He tries to de dragon himself in vain. Finally, fully and wonderfully, Aslan enters. Aslan seeks to ‘right’ the young lad’s desires. He does so by inviting Eustace to follow Him deeper and higher into the mountain before them. The journey will bring Eustace to an ancient pool of a bubbling waters.
Before Eustace can enter the healing waters, he must undress. Again and again Eustace attempts to undress himself. While Eustace makes some progress, he is unable to fully de dragon himself. He realizes that the Lion must undress him. More miserable than frightened, Eustace surrenders to the Lion. The lion digs deep. Deep into the core of Eustace’s desire.
The shedding begins.
Eustace finds; better – is found – by joy. From deep pain comes great joy!
His eyes gaze on his skin toned hands where dragon scaled claws had just been. The dragon peeled; the ground littered with his old self. The boy stands tall. Thrown into the pool, he is washed. The first touch of the healing waters bring pain; then joy. He swims in delight. Eustace: peeled, washed, clothed, claimed. Where once there sulked a dragon, now there shines a boy!!
In Eustace’s words, The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. . . Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt. . . After that it became perfectly delicious. . . And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again.³
How do I find joy?
Perhaps by responding to the invitation of God to go deeper and higher into love; deep love, abiding love, God’s love. Such is the invitation of Spiritual formation; a journey of going deeper and higher with God in the world. It is a journey which invites us to surrender to the one who can do for us that which we are unable to do for ourselves. The one who disruptively renovates us into the person we were always created to be!
Disrupting to Restore!
¹Smith, James K. A. Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation. Grand Rapids: Baker
²The Confessions of Saint Augustine: Confessions of St.Augustine (Image Books) (Kindle Locations 6055-6064). The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
³Lewis, C.S. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. N.p.: Tyndale House, 2002, pages 86 – 90.