surprised by joy
Throughout his life, C.S. Lewis (or "Jack", as he rechristened himself when he was four years old) experienced flashes of what he could only call joy. These flashes were often painful in their beauty, and awakened a longing to draw closer to the joy itself. After his conversion to Christianity, Lewis identified this joy as the presence of the "sudden and miraculous" grace of God.
The other night, we were getting a little punchy from being so tired. It had been a long day, but a good one, and we were happy and relaxed. We both competed to see who could make the other person laugh the hardest...with him threatening to tickle me and me fake falling out of bed to escape him...just regular shenanigans. Then suddenly, I was crying just as hard as I had been laughing. I felt like I had had the wind knocked out of me by a memory - but can you have a memory of something that hasn't happened yet? It came like a flash...a split-second picture of the two of us goofing off just like we had been, but tickling and cuddling a little baby too. We were both trying to make him laugh, and nothing seemed to exist besides his adorable smile and the three of us on that bed. It was so real that it actually startled me; and though it was painful, it was also too beautiful and deep to be anything other than joyful.
In all of his written work, Lewis dealt with not only the joy itself, but also the disappointments and rewards of those who long for the "Joy beyond the walls of this world." The emotion of those who have experienced the joy at some time is not an emptiness, but more of a homesickness, for they have a specific memory which fills the emptiness.
I've had other flashes since then...enough that I feel like I know Joseph. For some reason, I think of him most often as a little boy - not a baby - about four or five. A flash of him walking hand in hand with us as the weather gets cooler. A flash of him with his siblings. A flash of him leaning against me in church, his brown curls not yet reaching my shoulder, so real I couldn't believe he wasn't there.
As Lewis emphasized, these flashes, though in this world, are not of this world. As moments of grace, they draw us closer to God. Lucy perhaps illustrates this best in The Chronicles of Narnia; Aslan tells her that her constant longing for him and Narnia is in fact a longing for heaven, or the "true Narnia." She sees that heaven is not some empty, unknown land, but the truest version of all that she loved in this life.
In the beginning, I worried sometimes that I would never really know our first son. But these flashes are a gift. They don't force me to live in the past, but instead cover the present in grace, and give a glimpse of the true joy of the future.