Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Master’s Monday: From the Expected to the Given Good

Sorry for the delay, folks! I guess this week you’re getting Tuesday’s edition of “Master’s Monday.” :-) I just turned in my first major paper of the term, and I’m still working on getting my routine in order generally. I did want to share quickly, however, a passage from C. S. Lewis’s Perelandra that has been on my mind lately.

By way of context, at the beginning of the year I read an article that challenged me to rethink the idea of “New Year’s resolutions” and instead to pick one word that I thought should summarize my attitude to 2016. For reasons I won’t go into just now, I chose the word “gratitude.” Needless to say, first week of Hilary term has offered me many opportunities to choose gratitude, as does every week in different ways. :-)

This passage from Perelandra is spoken by “the green lady,” who is essentially a reimagining of Eve before the Fall. She enjoys a perfect relationship with her Creator. When a professor tries to explain to her the concept of temptation, he asks her if anything ever happens to her that she wishes had not. She thinks about this for a while, and then responds:

“What you have made me see...is as plain as the sky, but I never saw it before. Yet it has happened every day. One goes into the forest to pick food and already the thought of one fruit rather than another has grown up in one’s mind. Then, it may be, one finds a different fruit and not the fruit one thought of. One joy was expected and another is given. But this I had never noticed before—that at the very moment of the finding there is in the mind a kind of thrusting back, or a setting aside. The picture of the fruit you have not found is still, for a moment, before you. And if you wished—if it were possible to wish—you could keep it there. You could send your soul after the good you had expected, instead of turning it to the good you had got. You could refuse the real good; you could make the real fruit taste insipid by thinking of the other...

“And this...is the glory and wonder you have made me see; that it is I, I myself, who turn from the good expected to the given good. Out of my own heart I do it. One can conceive a heart which did not: which clung to the good it had first thought of and turned the good which was given into no good...

“I thought...that I was carried in the will of Him I love, but now I see that I walk with it. I thought that the good things He sent me drew me into them as the waves lift the islands; but now I see that it is I who plunge into them with my own legs and arms, as when we go swimming. I feel as if I were living in that roofless world of yours when men walk undefended beneath naked heaven. It is delight with terror in it. One’s own self to be walking from one good to another, walking beside Him as Himself may walk, not even holding hands. How has He made me so separate from Himself? How did it enter His mind to conceive such a thing? The world is so much larger than I thought….”