If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
When I renewed this blog a couple months ago, I asked myself a question. How can a romantic live God’s life? I am a romantic, so this question is very important to me.
What is a romantic? I’m not talking about Nicholas Sparks, but someone who has an “unquenchable thirst for life.” A romantic’s mind is ruled by ideas, or perhaps ideals. When he discovers something beautiful, he feels it flowing into him and throughout him. His mind is ever wandering to the big ideas, to the old things. This is his joy and his burden.
It is a joy because his heart yearns for the profoundly Real, and the only place the Real can be found on earth is in the abstract. A blue collar worker gives a homeless man a loaf of bread, and the homeless man weeps from gratitude. In real life, an analysis of the heart of either will always reveal some love and some selfishness. But in the ideal, in the picturesque, pure compassion and pure gratitude can exist. These ideals are a reflection of God himself, and we already know them because of His image within us all.
It is a burden because it is ineffable. Romantics are artists and creators. They absorb these discovered ideas so far down to the core of their being that they find they can never completely bring them back to the surface and express them. When I say the word “forgiveness,” it has an infinitude of meaning and power behind it that I can hardly begin to communicate. I can only give examples that show what I imagine, and hope you meet Forgiveness itself.
This is not the only reason it is a burden. Once we realize the full extent that insecurity drives actions, it becomes difficult to act. Or really, once we realize that our sinful self has some part to play, however small, in all of our actions, it becomes difficult to act at all. We want Purity, we do not want our actions to be tarnished. We do not want to claim something as our own unless we see it as thoroughly beautiful. But, our actions are not thoroughly beautiful. It is the same reason that an artist never finishes his painting. How can we then do anything?
I think this is part of what Luther was trying to convey when he said, “Sin boldly.” Yes, no matter what we do, it will be motivated by pride or selfishness or something else at some level. But should that stop us from doing things that are good? Of course not. This is urgently important to put into practice, but it does not soothe our hearts.
The thing is, Christ knows us. We think we know ourselves, but whew. Christ knows exactly who we are, and who we are not. And he loves us. He loves exactly us. Wow. This thought cleanses us and stills our hearts more than anything else. We can now be free from our shackles and are able to love. But… but… I still yearn for Beauty. I still yearn to show perfect love through my actions, and I still know that I will never be satisfied with my attempts.
The arts are one solution to this problem. Art is where true love can be found. Art is where true nature resides. Art is where the ineffable can be expressed. Art is Heaven on earth. We can conceive of others’ actions as perfectly beautiful because we do not have direct access to their souls. That is, we can view others’ lives the same way we view art, as idealized. We do not have that luxury with ourselves. We know ourselves, so our romantic notions of Virtue cannot fit ourselves. But, we can still produce art that captures this Beauty we try to live. We yearn for the Real, and God in his overflowing grace has granted us access to it right now! But access comes not through actions, but His image within us, and the Holy Spirit.
The reason the arts can fulfill us is because they are an expression of God. He is their true subject. I’ve said that I don’t know if I could be friends with someone who does not like Lord of the Rings. This is an exaggeration of course, but it has some truth to it. I see in Lord of the Rings a fuller and more powerful view of God than I have ever seen in any other piece of literature. His beauty is written all over its pages to me. So when somebody does not like it, it is difficult not to interpret that as a rejection of the beauty of God himself.
We want to be with Christ in Heaven, but we live here, on earth. How then can a romantic live God’s life? By understanding the love of God. By knowing sin, but knowing that our transformation has already begun and will be completed. Finally, by being artists, with our lives as our masterpiece. By letting our mind wander into the High Wonders, and expressing the inexpressible Beauty through the love of people.