Now that our Kickstarter campaign is over and I am going to be able to record lessons on Letters to Malcolm from Oxford, I’m getting back into the book earnestly. Today, while reading the last letter on petitionary prayer, I was impressed by Lewis’ explanation of how we are to treat the mental images that go through our minds as we pray. He says we must not fixate on any one, but treat them all the way William Blake speaks of the passing joys of life. Here is Blake’s poem in full. It is titled “Eternity”:
He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sun rise.
Blake likens a passing joy to a bird flying by in the air. If we try to grab it and hang onto it, we will kill it. But if we simply enjoy it as it passes, we can expect to enjoy all the other joys to come. Of course, the last line speaks of something more splendid than that, but that’s the general principle Lewis is concerned about.
The idea of binding a joy to one’s self, of insisting on the ownership or repetition of a pleasure, reminds one of Lewis’ warning against saying “Encore” to the blessings God brings in our lives. When we like an experience, we are tempted to seek to have it again. But God is far too creative to simply repeat his acts. He has something else in store out of the eternal sunrise that is his glorious Mind.
And here enters the danger. If we insist on an encore and will not be content with the transitory nature of God’s blessings in this life, we will not only fail to experience that one blessing again, we will spoil it. It’s nature is to fly. It’s like the manah in the wilderness; if you hang onto it and don’t eat it while you can, it spoils.
At the same time, as the blessing is spoiled by this demand for the encore, those other flocks of blessings that are passing over us are lost to us. Our eyes have been elsewhere than to the Sunrise.
To rightly benefit from the joys God sends us, we must enjoy them according to their nature. We must let them be “passing” and enjoy them temporarily. And we do not need to be afraid that, if we do not hang onto this joy, we will never have another one. God is too abundant in his creativity and goodness to allow that. We can afford to kiss the joy as it flies by, because we know another is on the way.
But the best thing of all is to live in The Sunrise, for God is the source of all blessings. Indeed, He is the greatest blessing. In Him is the Life that enables any creature to enjoy any blessing. He is all Blessedness itself, and He, unlike the blessings of this transitory world, is everlasting. In His presence is fullness of joy, and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore.