Originally published Monday, 15 March 2021.
As a girl, I remember buying a classical music cassette tape with my own money and pushing play in a pink bedroom tucked under the eaves. When I heard Pachelbel’s Canon in D for the first time, the perfection of that sweet melody caused a queer aching to well up inside of me. It was mystifying at the time, but I now know that it was my soul’s unconscious response to beauty. Decades have passed and I have experienced this feeling many times since: at the sight of a staggeringly stunning sunset off my own back deck, hiking amidst impossible shades of green in the Scottish Highlands, in response to rich, melancholy cello notes falling from my son’s bow. In his autobiography Surprised By Joy, C.S. Lewis refers to this sensation as “the stab, the pang, the inconsolable longing.”
Lewis also experienced this as a child and spent many years attempting to replicate it. He was occasionally successful and eventually realized, “Only when your whole attention and desire are fixed on something else …. does the ‘thrill’ arise. It is a byproduct. Its very existence presupposes that you desire not it, but something other and outer.”
But what is that “other and outer” desire for which this longing is a mere symptom? Through very different journeys, Lewis and I eventually came to the same conclusion: it is Jesus Christ.
“For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible … He is before all things and in him all things hold together.”Colossians 1:16-17
Jesus was present at creation, all things were created by Him and through Him, and in Him all things hold together. Jesus is the source of all beauty. Every person is drawn to beauty because the Imago Dei – the Image of God – is stamped on their souls. Our creator bestowed this longing for Himself in us and as St. Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
Yet I do know my creator. I have a relationship, a friendship with Him. How is it that I still feel that inconsolable longing in the presence of beauty? Why does catching a glimpse of upturned winter branches reaching toward a million glinting stars leave me with a catch in my throat? Why the hollow ache? I believe in those moments the veil between Heaven and Earth has been thinned just a bit, and we are graciously given a glimpse of the world as it was meant to be.
We grieve for how it once was in Eden when God walked side by side with his creation. And we long for how it will be again when the world is mended by His second coming. So it is impossible to experience these moments without the bittersweet nature of our in-between existence reminding us of what we have lost while clinging to what we still hope for. As C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
But for now, we are sojourners in this world, and what a world He has given us! I’m grateful that he has given us such keen senses to process, experience, and enjoy it. I’m often overwhelmed by its beauty. But most of all I’m grateful that His creation points me to Himself, the source of all beauty. For it is Him that I truly long for.
Kara is the wife of 20+ years to Caleb and the mother of 5, including 2 through the miracle of adoption. She and her family live on 8 acres, raising cows, goats, chickens, and turkeys, as well as a large garden. She is passionate about hospitality, mothering, the intersection of farm-life and faith, and finding beauty in the commonplace. She enjoys her classics bookclub, walking her country road, and traveling with her large family. She occasionally blogs at goodgiftsfarm.com, but you can keep up with her more regularly on Instagram @good_gifts_farm.