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By Gregory Love
God is our one true love. We were made out of God’s love, and for that love.
But we don’t always know this. We wander. We drift. Sometimes for years, or decades.
Lewis is simply following the Old and New Testaments, the prophets and Jesus; Augustine and the Reformers; and the spiritual traditions of the Jews and Christians. We replace the infinite with the finite. We replace being loved simply for who we are—God’s beloved—for being well-regarded for our traits and achievements.
But these objects of replacement will not fill us. They will not satisfy our soul, or bring us lasting peace or joy, because they are not the thing needed: An unconditional love from the God who made us and who wants a relationship with us.
It is when the finite things fail to satisfy that we may become open to the infinite. Lewis writes:
… if a man diligently followed his desire [for Joy], pursuing the false objects until their falsity appeared and then resolutely abandoned them, he must come out at last into the clear knowledge that the human soul was made to enjoy some object that is never fully given … in our present mode of subjective and spatio-temporal existence.
Two things are true. God wants us to come to God out of our own desire and free will. God wants our “Yes” to God’s own offer of fellowship, a fellowship that will fill our hearts. It could not be any other way if it were to be fellowship.
And God is merciful to those who have wandered away. “I have come to find the lost,” Jesus says (Luke 19:10). But how to seek us for a fellowship that is freely accepted, and not coerced? That is the triune God’s challenge.
One of the ways God does so is through providential acts by which God nudges us. These are not commands. They are not God standing in our way, like the angel with a flaming sword in front of Balaam’s donkey. They are words from the living, risen Jesus to us, and they come in a thousand different ways, from large to trivial events. A scene in a movie. A comment by a friend. A dream. A memory, long forgotten. An opportunity that opens unbidden. God moves us to consider what we are doing with our lives. And Christ continuously says about our ventures, as he did to the Samaritan woman at the well, “This will not fulfill you”; and he then continuously points to the fellowship with God and says, “This will fulfill you…and it will last.” (John 4)
However, as we wander, the mercy of the triune God comes to us in a second way. God the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of truth, wisdom and life—speaks to us in our inner world. The Spirit converses with our minds and our hearts about those words spoken by Jesus to us, “This will not fulfill you. That will.” God the Spirit counsels and encourages us to freely listen to the guidance of Jesus toward the life that fills our souls.
When we do, our life can take a turn toward the satisfaction that goes all the way down in us.