Joy is our bedrock, our touchstone of reality. It is the reset button we keep looking for, mostly in self-gratifying and therefore unsatisfying places. Sometimes, when we align ourselves with God and stay still–receptive but not straining to hear, not requiring anything–He recalibrates us as a Wii recalibrates its remotes. C.S. “Jack” Lewis called that joy: “the truest index of our real situation.”
For Jack, joy was stabs of “an almost unbearable pleasure,” “a single, unendurable sense of desire and loss,” “that razor-edged or needle-pointed quality . . . that shock, as if one were swallowing light itself,” an “experience. . . of intense desire.” “The longing for home.”
“The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited” (from The Weight of Glory).
“. . . that something which you were born desiring, and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year after year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for. You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it—tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest—if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself—you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say ‘Here at last is the thing I was made for’” (from Latin Letters).
You know it when you feel its sudden, explosive rush–or its deep, grateful contentment. By practicing the presence of God, according to Brother Lawrence, we can extend our periods of experiencing the satisfaction of Jesus’ joy, peace, love, pleasure, and rest all in one because it all comes from Him: “In His presence is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11).