On Beauty and Longing

By Lucy Watson

Lucy is a senior at School of the Ozarks located in Point Lookout, Missouri. She is looking to study graphic design with a minor in accounting in college. When she isn’t doing school work or reading, she loves to play sports, paint, spin pottery, and spend time with her family. 

I am in my fourth year of a classical Christian education, and over that time I’ve heard my instructors, headmaster, and fellow students repeatedly ask me to dwell on the true, good, and beautiful. I’ve always wondered, however, what exactly that is. Yes, there are beautiful things, and yes, I’ve seen goodness in people, and I’ve also read and heard truth, even outside the Bible. But what truly are the purposes of these things? Why are we told to evaluate information given to us through the questions, “Is it true? Is it good? Is it beautiful?” Why is it so important?

till we have facesIt wasn’t until recently that the answer was revealed to me. In my British Literature class, we are reading the novel Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis. In this novel, the king of Glome was told the only way to save his kingdom from the wrath of the gods is by sacrificing the protagonist, his daughter Psyche. As she awaits her death, however, she shows no fear. On the contrary, Psyche is comforted by the fact that a fulfillment of her heart’s desire is near. She tells her sister, Orual, “I have always— at least, ever since I can remember—had a kind of longing for death” (84). Confused as to why the sister she loves wants to leave her and the good times they shared, Orual develops a bitterness towards her beloved sister. But Psyche understands. She understands she was created for another world, and every beautiful thing she experiences on the earth only deepened the already real longing she felt before.

C.S. Lewis depicts Psyche’s words beautifully:

I was happiest when I longed the most. It was on the happy days when we were up on the hills, the three of us, with the wind and the sunshine… where you couldn’t see Glome or the palace. Do you remember? The colour and the smell, and looking across at the grey mountain in the distance? And because it was so beautiful, it set me longing, always longing. Everything seemed to be saying, ‘Psyche come! But I couldn’t (not yet) come and I didn’t know where I was to come to. It almost hurt me. (85)

We are all Psyche. We all have a longing for something “more.” When I look out and see trees in the fall whose leaves have the most vibrant colors, the rain falling gently on hard pavement, and feel the refreshing, cool breeze after a hot summer, I am left in awe of the beauty. When I fix my eyes on something of such beauty I cannot describe it, it sets in me a longing to know where it came from, a longing for “more.”

And that “more” is heaven. It is an eternity in the most beautiful place in the presence of my Savior. But while I’m on this earth and I gaze upon something beautiful, watch an act of goodness performed, or hear a bit of truth, that is my Heavenly Father whispering to me, “Lucy come!” He puts good things on this earth that shout His praises. How could I not follow? Like Simon Peter told Jesus, “Lord, where else would we go?” There is nothing on this earth that satisfies the longing, but only things placed here that create and deepen it. There is a mysterious, unexplainable joy in the longing that I hope to be marked for.

So I learned that I’ve been pushed to consider the true, good, and beautiful in my education because I have people in my life and in my school that want me to witness Christ and find joy in His truth, His goodness, and His beauty— the fulfillment of my longing. Through learning to meditate on those three key realities, my instructors have instilled in me a desire to search for joy. And once I’ve experienced and seen this, it sets in me a longing for the “more” of its source. Like Psyche, I understand that I was created for something greater, and because I’ve seen such beauty, but only a fraction of its reality, I will be longing, always longing, with the hope and joy that I will one day attain it.

 

*All text citations are from C. S Lewis, Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold (New York: HarperOne, 2017).

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