Well, Christmas is around the corner, and my kids desire many things. But C.S. Lewis thought our desires could be redeemed. I agree.
You may have heard a new Star Wars movie is coming out soon. And so, during what is increasingly being called the "holiday shopping season," instead of "Christmas," there's a ton of film-related merchandise being pushed.
The International Business Times notes, "Whether it's an exciting new broadsword-style lightsaber, a figurine of his or her favorite character or a working BB-8 RC unit they can control with a smartphone, no one will be bored on Christmas morning with any of these gifts under the tree."
Now lest anyone think I'm a grumpy Grinch or stingy Scrooge, let me say that I love to give — and receive — gifts during Christmas. But as the father of three beautiful but impressionable daughters, I worry about how all of this commercialism that's invaded our culture's celebration of Christ's birth might warp their thinking and their souls. Let's face it — our kids do a lot of wanting at Christmas, and truth be told, so do the rest of us. So is such desire good or bad? Can our desires be redeemed? These are really good questions.
For answers, I invite you to check out an essay on our website that I've written called, "On Being the Father of Immortals." Actually, it's a reprint of a chapter in a new book "C. S. Lewis and Women," which is available at our online bookstore.
Immortals may sound like some new class of alien life, but they are, in reality, each and every human being.
As C.S. Lewis once said, "There are no ordinary people. You've never talked to a mere mortal … it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours."
And immortals, might I add, that we raise.
As "immortals," my girls express a natural curiosity about God, the world, and their place in it. Yet as I write in the essay, "I also see how often their active imaginations are tempted to a small view of life for which too many Westerners settle. I fear they will begin to believe, as they absorb constant marketing pitches aiming for their affections and pocketbooks, that they are what they buy; that the hole in their being is stuff-shaped rather than God-shaped."
So how do we help them not settle for this small view of life? We have to address our God-given longings with a God-given perspective.
"Lewis understood," I write, "that it is the direction our desires take and not the desires themselves that are the problem. Rightly ordered, human longings point us to answers about life and its meaning. Ultimately, they point us to God, the only source for knowing our true selves. Our capacity for desire is good.
"The mistake many make about desires, Lewis thought, is confusing means for ends. "We all know how pursuing desire as an end in and of itself results in a treadmill of personal disillusionment and relational carnage."
And isn't that what so often happens when all the "holiday" merchandise has been unwrapped and all we're left with are the bills, the pine needles on the living room carpet, and our unfulfilled longings? Lewis knew that as immortals, we'd been created for so much more.
"… it would seem," Lewis once wrote, "that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased."
So as we raise the immortals we've been trusted with, the point isn't to squash their desire. It's to point their desires to higher things. It's about helping our children, and ourselves, raise our sights beyond the temporal to the eternal, and ultimately to the One whose Incarnation we celebrate. After all, He's the One who gave us desires and the only One who can ultimately fulfill them.
Please, come to BreakPoint.org to read my essay, "On Being the Father of Immortals."