“What would it be to taste at the Fountainhead that stream of which even these lower reaches prove so intoxicating? Yet that, I believe, is what lies before us. The whole man is to drink joy from the fountain of joy.”- C.S Lewis, The Weight of Glory, 44.
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”- Psalm 16:11.
Joy comes to us from a myriad of different places. We find joy in the relationships we have with our family and our friends, our coworkers and our acquaintances. We experience joy in past memories of Christmas holidays and family vacations, wanting to hold on to them and mourning them when they evade our grasp and our desired permanence. We stand in the midst of mountains and on long beaches being washed with tremendous joy, and joy comes to us in the midst of a good book on a rainy day, or simply a day off. But these are only vehicles, a means by which God communicates His joy to us downstream. These things that communicate the pleasures of God to us Lewis calls the “lower reaches.” These communicants are the water of Christ that has cascaded down cliffs, been mingled with dirt and rock, but still arrives to us as cool, refreshing water. Perhaps the greatest indicator that the joy coming from them is not the purest, not the most potent or satisfying, is the fact that the joy emulating from these objects does not last. The memories fade, our families fight, our friends fail us and we fail them, and relationships change. Our vacations come to a close and rainy days turn to sunshine. We do reach the last pages of our favorite novels, and after our day off comes another Monday morning.
One of the greatest challenges is to remember that, though God communicates His fullness, joy, and pleasure through objects here on this planet, they themselves are neither the source nor the originator of joy. We are perpetually tempted to mistake these objects the Object of them all, the Object of all that we desire. We attempt to hold on to these things, build shrines to them, and worship them as God. But they will always, without fail, slip through our fingers like water and will never deliver the Ultimate as we hope they might. We must constantly refocus and pray often against the pull to turn these lower reaches into the Source. But Christians will not always taste these muddied waters. What remains for a Christian, when the end comes, is a final traveling up-stream to taste forever the Water at the Source of Joy. Our God is not a God devoid of pleasure or joy, satisfaction or fullness, and He desires to communicate to us these things in a measure here. But one day, Christians will taste the purest Water, Christ Himself, free from all dirt and silt. They will find what they are looking for. In these days it is hard for me to turn my eyes upstream, but it is a necessity, and it is a necessity for us all.