As I sit here at my computer, I look past the stark black lines of its frame to see spring creeping in at my window. Ivy tumbles over itself on its climb up the clear glass pane. Azaleas of deep pink, pale pink, and pure white all grow happily together in an overflowing cluster. Stretching above the Azaleas, the long Dogwood branches reach for the sun and cast their own pink faces back for me to see. A little brown bird with an orange breast twitters happily as he hops fbrrom anch to branch, taking in the cool morning breezes for himself and cocking his head to the side as he looks at me, wondering why I would choose this black box over the glory of a spring morning.
Every year when Spring arrives, something begins to stir within me. Its a fervent anticipation of all the beauty that continues to slowly unfold itself, mixed with sorrow of how fleeting I know it will be. I can never have it all at once, its just not the way. One morning, the Bradford Pear is covered in delicate white blooms, and the next they have magically morphed into dark green leaves. There is little time to morn this loss, because I see my Dogwoods and Azaleas bursting with the load of their partially opened blooms. Oh the beauty! it almost makes me hurt. It does make me breathe short, shallow breaths as I beseech my eyes to soak it all in and not forget. I have wanted to quantitate it…to have a word for what this time of year does to me. C.S. Lewis calls it Joy, in his book Surprised by Joy:
I will only underline the quality common to the three experiences (One of the experiences he’s referring to is a book that stirred within him the intense desire for Autumn. Another, is the childhood memory of the first time he saw a flower arrangement and was stunned by its beauty. The third is the emotion that was stirred within him by reading a particular line of poetry.); it is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and from Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again…. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.
I believe what he is describing is what Spring brings to me each year. I cannot possess Spring. I cannot even force its beauty to all be revealed at the same time. I cannot make it last for a moment longer by any means, but it’s these desires in and of themselves that create this feeling…this yearning that I excitedly wait for each year. The taste of this Joy, is what compels me to arrange flowers, like the one in this picture, so that when I pass by them in my home during the humdrum of the day, I have a fleeting sense of that Joy again. Lewis’ description sounds a bit like a drug addiction, once you’ve tasted it, you’ll always be yearning to create it again.
I think God gives us this Joy to show us a flash of Himself. Once we’ve experienced Him, and the Joy created through this experience, we can never get enough. We live life yearning to know Him more. Just like Spring, I cannot possess Him, but its the yearning to know Him that is pleasing in His sight. On this side of Heaven, all Joy is tinged with sorrow–because of sin, but we are created to long for Joy without sorrow. Isn’t it incredible all the different ways God can recreate pictures of our relationship with Him in our world, so that we might better grasp His beauty? As I sit here, looking at the glorious awakening of Spring outside my window, I am filled with Joy, not only because I am catching my breath at its beauty, but also because I know the one source for all Joy!