Think about the most beautiful place you've ever been. The most stunning piece of music you've ever heard. The most meaningful relationship you've ever had. Now think about all the warmth and comfort that place gives you. Do you ever still feel empty? Think about all the beauty and meaning that music shows you. Do you ever still feel confused by the brokenness around you? Think about all the love and communion that relationship gives you. Do you ever still feel insecure or lonely?
This morning I was at the gym listening to a Tim Keller sermon (the only way I can faithfully work out for a whole 45 minutes is if I'm completely mentally distracted. Enter podcasts!) and he was talking about these experiences of beauty, meaning, and love. It seems that our experience with them can be both inspiring and frustrating; inspiring because they show us that there is more in us- and more to us!- than just physical appetites for food and sleep and sex, but frustrating because we can't seem to get enough of these experiences to be fully or permanently satisfied.
Tim Keller was saying that the tension exists for a reason. These things show us God by awakening our longing, and they show us our need for God by being unable to fully satisfy that longing. When we hear great music or experience great love, we're given a taste of God- we're awakened to the goodness, beauty, and love that He is! But these mirrors of Him, these shadows, can't be ends in themselves- they aren't big enough to be! Their glory is reflected. The gifts signpost the Giver and they beckon us to admire Him, to be known by Him, and be satisfied in Him.
Postscript: a quote by C.S. Lewis (much more important to read than my blog post!) This guy came to faith in Christ over a long period of time and so he wrote a lot for other "seekers", sharing how these experiences of beauty and joy that led him to Jesus can help point others to Him also.
"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."