Ryan's post on Happiness and Molly's post on Friendship got me thinking: where do we find fulfillment. Several nights ago I read these words of C.S. Lewis, and they struck a chord that resonated deeply:
Nothing brought Lewis more enjoyment than sitting around a fire with a group of close friends engaged in good discussion, or taking long walks with them in the English countryside.This is the kind of life I want to live. But where does one find the time? And how does one make "old friends"? The older I get, the more I feel the weight of life's "busyness" - the more I desire to reorient my routine, to figure out how to actually create the kind of breathing room that relationships require.
"My happiest hours," Lewis wrote, "are spent with three or four old friends in old clothes tramping together and putting up in small pubs - or else sitting up till the small hours in someone's college rooms, talking nonsense, poetry, theology, metaphysics over beer, tea, and pipes. There's no sound I like better than ... laughter" ...
"Friendship is the greatest of worldly goods. Certainly to me it is the chief happiness of life, If I had to give a piece of advice to a young man about a place to live, I think I should say, 'sacrifice almost everything to live where you can be near friends.'-Nicholi, C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, p115.
When it comes to questions like "What do I want to do in the future?" or "Where do I want to go?", I find that my answers are changing of late. The center of gravity in my decision making process is increasingly shifting towards the persons (and I use that word intentionally, because it includes God) I want to spend my life with, rather than the places I want to go or the things I want to accomplish.
I'm not saying that my motivations are perfect or even noble - just that they are changing. Perhaps the urgency of age is getting to me. I realize that if I want what Lewis is talking about, I'm going to have to get intentional about pursuing it. Is this the early stages of senility? Or perhaps a glimmer of wisdom?
I find myself increasingly disillusioned with materialism. What I really desire is a reality that can only be found in relationship. And I want that in both life and ministry.
This is affecting how we think about planting a church. We find ourselves looking for team members, not on the basis of their theological orthodoxy or even their skills and gifting (although these things are important) – rather, we find ourselves seeking people with whom we share a deep relational commitment (Lewis would probably say 'a mutual sense of Agape').
We are looking for friends who desire community to join us in a great adventure. Scary? You bet. But this is where the action is, and I have a sneaky suspicion this is where Joy is to be found. This is what the church is meant to be - a community on the edge, living beyond itself, depending on another, and especially on Christ.
At the end of the day, relationships not only bring the most satisfaction in life, they also carry you through the hard times. Of course, relationships with others are never ultimate (in fact, others will always fail you). Nevertheless, relationships can still be very good - the best ones point us to the Ultimate Relater, the only one in whom we can ever find complete satisfaction, the only one who will never leave us nor forsake us.
What surprises me is how many people readily acknowledge their thirst for meaningful relationships, and yet how few are willing to challenge the status quo by reorienting their lives in a different direction.
Many seem to recognize the dangers of being driven by the desire for fame, fortune, career, success. Yet very few seem willing to turn their back on it altogether in order to pursue something more meaningful. Yes we want relationships, but we are reluctant to give up our comforts, our consumerism (the very things that isolate us from others).
At the end of the day maybe we are like Frodo and his Ring - we long to be rid of it, but we are loathe to actually give it up. It is our 'precious'...
Nicholi illustrates the situation well:
I often ask my classes whether or not, from their observations and experience, people around them are happy. Invariably, they answer no.If the answer is so obvious, why is meaningful change so seldom realized? Why do so many people go through life feeling unfulfilled? What would it take to shake things up?
Invariably, I express surprise. I point out that, compared with most people in the world, they possess everything - youth, health, intelligence, abundant food, clothes, a comfortable place to live, education, a promising future, etc. What in the world cause them to be unhappy?
The typical answer is lack of meaningful relationships.
The students point out that everyone around them appears to be consumed with their success. When I ask what they think their collegues consider success ... the answer is "fame and fortune."-Nicholi, p98.
I'd love to hear what you think...