When you’ve seen one, the next one becomes easier to spot.
That’s how C. S. Lewis begins to describe (in his seminal work, Mere Christianity) a new kind of person — a breed, he says, that begins where most of us leave off:
“Their very voices and faces are different from ours: stronger, quieter, happier, more radiant. … They will not be very like the idea of ‘religious people’ … They do not draw attention to themselves. You tend to think that you are being kind to them when they are really being kind to you. They love you more than other men do, but they need you less. … They will usually seem to have a lot of time: you will wonder where it comes from. … they recognize one another immediately and infallibly … In that way, to become holy is rather like joining a secret society. To put it at the very lowest, it must be great fun.”
It is that last line that most stuns us, that is too often overlooked in this pursuit of holiness. To become holy must be great fun.
How have we missed this detail (which is not a detail at all)?
How have we come to define holiness as all the things we don’t do, rather than the rich treasure of possibility it is? This is the yearning of one who orients toward life from a desire to live a more holy existence. It is the cry to be something more — more love, more joy, more peace, more Presence, more perfect. Not in the sense of gaining perfection on our own strength, but in the sense that this life can be more.
As Lewis also says, “The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. [God] is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. … He meant what he said. Those who put themselves in His hands will become perfect, as He is perfect — perfect in love, wisdom, joy, beauty, and immortality.”
I’m reading this and thinking about my own spiritual disciplines. The great surprise, I’m discovering, is just how easy it is to master the first few verses of 1 Corinthians 13 (“If I have prophetic powers … if I have faith so as to move mountains …”) , without sufficient attention to the heart of that poem (“Love is patient and kind …”).
It is humbling (and a little deflating) to admit just how much easier it is to be spiritually disciplined than it is to pay sufficient attention to the goal of love. Paul has warned me over and over that without love, all the rest of it is senseless noise. He teaches me that as I orient my life toward love privately, it will show up publicly. How can I reorient my spiritual life so that more love is exposed? So that I begin to take delight in letting the love flow — in my prayers, in my serving, in my reading, in my journaling? I ask this question recognizing just how far I have to go.
So then, that is my prayer for the coming season: that I will become one of those people who is easy to spot — so infused with patience and kindness, so obviously lacking in jealousy, envy or pride, that they will say of me, “Doesn’t she love well?”
And just as often, “Doesn’t she seem to be having fun?”
*From Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity.