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Gazing in the Right Direction

“Joy is the serious business of Heaven.”

C.S. Lewis1

Surely one of the marks of greatness is the longevity of one’s influence. Take the scientist Charles Darwin for example. He died in 1882 and we are still talking about him. Yet Darwin himself did not consider himself successful. He spent most of his life trying to come up with another groundbreaking insight after unleashing his theory of natural selection. Toward the end of his life, he told a friend, “I have everything to make me happy and contented, but life has become very wearisome to me.”2 He was stuck.

It’s a common feeling. Sometimes it can feel like life is on hold, especially when you are waiting for something or in that in-between stage of things. I am reading C.S. Lewis’s, The Great Divorce, with a group of friends. In the book, many of the characters are stuck in hell. Life is an endless dull light. Evening never advances to night. Morning never comes. It is always raining and time is paused in this dismal moment in the midst of “mean” streets. They are stuck.

The thing that is interesting about Lewis’s characters is that even when they are given a chance to leave and go to heaven, some return to the mean, dismal streets. They are not able to get unstuck.

It seems that their eyes have gotten so used to no light that they can not see the glory of heaven. It seems their ears have gotten so muffled that all they hear is the sound of their own voice. They can not hear the joy and laughter of heaven. It seems that their minds are so filled with thoughts of themselves that they are not able to consider any other reality other than their own.

The Jewish-born, French philosopher and activist, Simone Weil wrote a striking realization during WWII: “Sin…is a turning of our gaze in the wrong direction.”3

The Apostle Paul explains original sin as idolatry: “They exchanged the glory of the immortal God…and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator.” (Rom 1:21-25) Tim Keller summarizes it this way, “Instead of living for God, we began to live for ourselves, or for our work, for material goods. We reverted the original intended order.”4 We got stuck. We have eyes but do not see. We have ears but do not hear. (Jer 5:21)

David, the psalmist, tells us what we are missing. He shares how to get unstuck saying:” The Lord is my light and my salvation.” (Ps 27:1) In Christ, all things are new. His blessings are new every morning. He is our light and in Him, there is no darkness at all. The Lord is our salvation.

The word used for salvation here in this psalm can also mean a broad place of possibility. Don’t you love that? David tells us where the hope and reality of the possibility come from a few verses down in the psalm saying, “This only do I seek…to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and seek him in his temple.” His gaze has moved beyond himself. His gaze is not on the need for approval. His gaze is not on comfort or security. His gaze is not on power or control or success. His gaze is not on the fear of rejection or suffering or uncertainty. All these things and more can be substitutes for God - idols. Gazing on these things can make you stuck.

What some of the characters in Lewis’s book do not realize is that choices here on earth prepared them for heaven or hell. His book also shows us how difficult it is to keep your gaze in the right direction without God’s help.

In another book, Lewis writes: “We do not want merely to see beauty…We want something else which can hardly be put into words - to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”5

We need to be with the source of light. We need to be with the one who can save us so we can set our gaze in the right direction.


  1. C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcomb

  2. quoted by Arthur C. Brooks, From Strength to Strength. Brooks goes on to explain, in his opinion, why Darwin was stuck.

  3. Simone Weil, Waiting for God

  4. Tim Keller, “How to Talk About Sin in a Postmodern Age”

  5. C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory


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