Caught Between a Crosswind of Summer, Coffee, and a Strange Homesickness

I was caught between a crosswind of summer and coffee.

It was a small moment, yes, but it stung me and stayed with me long enough to push its way into this post.

While holding a cup of coffee freshly brewed -- the kind that smells like paradise itself (though non-coffee drinkers will point out that the aroma is false advertising; its bitter taste doesn't match the glorious smell) -- I stood, poised to take the first sip, when two things happened at once:

1) The fumes from the cup, which presented a mix of smells -- caramel, almond perhaps, and the usual coffee fragrance that falls somewhere between the smell of freshly cut exotic wood from a faraway land and a chocolate factory with its doors wide open -- floated into my face.

2) At the same time, a breeze from the open window nearby came in and brought other smells: the warmth of summer vegetation sitting in the mellow dryness of direct sunlight -- trees, freshly cut grass, flower beds all warm and quiet -- mixed with the salt of the Pacific Ocean breeze coming in from offshore.

The combination of these two things made me feel joy in the Lewisian sense. Here is what C.S. Lewis said about joy in his book "Surprised by Joy" (p. 166): "The very nature of Joy makes nonsense of our common distinction between having and wanting..." And he defined it this way: joy is that sharp pang of "unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction" (18).

It's that feeling when something triggers a deep longing, something like nostalgia, but it goes beyond the past, beyond memories, beyond anything you know. It's as if you were suddenly nostalgic for something that hasn't happened yet. You have all the overwhelming longing of the deepest nostalgia, but its object is hidden from you. All you can do is lift your eyes to the empty blue night as stars light their lamp posts one by one, and you luxuriate in that intensity of desire for something you know not.

Joy therefore is not happiness perfected. It is hunger perfected.

In that same way, I longed for a vague far-off paradise -- a strange homesickness for a home that I had never seen -- and, looking back on it, I do feel a little silly perhaps. Coffee and a breeze from the window?  But there it is. I can't deny it happened. Little things can have the strangest effects.

C.S. Lewis's point was that the Holy Spirit uses these little moments of life to awaken a deep, abiding hunger for God. That is the hunger perfected. It is when Joy lights a lamp post inside of us that yearns perpetually -- never fulfilled because there is no end to the infinite journey -- to know Christ in all of His ceaseless beauty and richness.

And when those little moments of life come to awaken that hunger, we would do well to pay attention to them.

#CSLewis, #Joy, #JesusChrist, #StabsOfJoy