Today I remembered something C.S. Lewis once wrote in a letter to his friend Mary Van Deuson in 1955. Lewis describes the joy of youthful activities and how they tapped into “something more than physical pleasure.” All along, the things he truly enjoyed and longed for were what Lewis calls “echoes” of scripture. In other words, his most joyful experiences really pointed toward something larger and far greater. Something only contained in God Himself.
Lewis writes, “All my life nature and art have been reminding me of something I’ve never seen: saying ‘Look! What does this– and this– remind you of?’” Lewis describes these thoughts again in his autobiography Surprised by Joy. He writes this:
“This discovery flashed a new light back on my whole life. I saw that all my waitings and watchings for Joy, all my vain hopes to find some mental content on which I could, so to speak, lay my finger and say, ‘This is it,’ had been a futile attempt to contemplate the enjoyed. . . I knew now that they were merely the mental track left by the passage of Joy–not the wave but the wave’s imprint on the sand. The inherent dialectic of desire itself had in a way already shown me this; for all images and sensations, if idolatrously mistaken for Joy itself, soon honestly confessed themselves inadequate. All said, in the last resort, ‘It is not I. I am only a reminder. Look! Look! What do I remind you of?'”
When I find myself longing for some experience or some new place, I remember Lewis’ echoes and reminders. All we would ever–and could ever–want is merely a reminder and an echo of the greatest thing, our true Joy: Jesus.
–C.S. Lewis, “To Mary Van Deusen” (March 3, 1955) in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963, Volume 3 (Ed. Walter Hooper; New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 583-584.