Alan Jacobs, in his excellent biography of C.S. Lewis, made the observation that Lewis was characterized by “an openness to delight, to the sense that there’s more to the world than meets the jaundiced eye…” In other words, Lewis did not let cynicism or fear of mockery prevent him from seeing beauty and trusting in God’s goodness. Jacobs suggests that when we close our hearts to wonder, we lose part of our humanity. His challenge was, “Those who will never be fooled can never be delighted because without self-forgetfulness, there can be no delight, and this is a great and grievous loss” (Jacobs, The Narnian, xxi).
Lewis’s openness to delight, particularly the delight of encountering beauty in a broken world, is a posture I want to commend. As a culture, we are getting worn down by multiple crises. The pursuit of beauty is not escapism. Nor is the “key to everything.” Beauty is, however, an essential nutrient so that we can struggle with hope.
For a picture of realistic hope, consider the eighth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans. There he describes a tension in this world: the creation is in bondage to corruption but will eventually be set free. The world is broken, fallen from its original state. For now, the earth “groans in the pains of childbirth.” And Paul adds, “we groan as we wait eagerly” for the renewal of all things. He names the pain but keeps his heart open.
My groaning is not always accompanied by “waiting eagerly.” That’s why Jacob’s comment about openness to delight arrested me. I am quite self-protective. I am on guard, wary of naïve notions. Instead of insisting there is only brokenness in the world and in my heart, I need to look closer for the beauty—even at the risk of disappointment.
I have found again and again, that if I open my heart to delight, and chose against self-protective cynicism, I do find beauty. I rediscover the beauty of Jesus Christ. Though he sees through my pretenses and mixed motives, he moves toward me anyway. He is not cynical about me even though he knows I have been trying to use him. Yes, I reduce Christ to a means to an end—like personal peace and comfort. He shows me something better—the beauty of himself. A beauty that is satisfying and joyful—even if I don’t get what I demanded. Like seeing a mountain vista, I am pulled out (at least for a time) from self-absorption. I am awed for a time and sometimes exhilarated.
Will you join me on this blog as I search for beauty in the brokenness? Are you at least a little bit open to delight? My guess is that you are.