Conclusion to the three-part story of my journey from atheism to faith
To read Part One, click here.
“Surprised by joy—impatient as the Wind, I turned to share the transport.” ~William Wordsworth
Almost immediately after my diffident conversion, I went looking for something that could explain it, and stumbled upon (or rather, was led to) the writings of C. S. Lewis. It was like finding a bundle of letters from my “real father.” His thoughts were as alive to me as my own.
Indeed, they paralleled my own in every way, except that he’d thought and written about them in far greater depth. When I read of his brushes with Joy, his word for the untranslatable German “sehnsucht,” the transcendent longing of which all other longings are merely a shadow, my heart jumped from my chest. Here again was the thing I’d called “a hunger for a flavor that didn’t exist!”
“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water… If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.” (Mere Christianity)
No mere philosophical construct, this phenomenon was the linchpin of Jack’s conversion, as it had been mine:
“In a sense, the central story of my life is about nothing else (but) that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy (and) doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world.” (Surprised by Joy)
Like me, but many years before me, my spiritual father had surrendered to the flavor that did exist. And like me, he had brought a lot of luggage along as he moved down the path from atheist to deist to, finally, unfettered disciple. And yet he never turned back.
And neither have I.
“For those who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, indeed, he has prepared a city for them.”