I HAVE A GOOD FRIEND named Ches. When introduced to anything new, he will bring it to his nose to smell it. Until recently, I thought this quite odd, but now I’m seeing he may be on to something.
I was introduced to the word “quiddity” in C.S. Lewis’ autobiography, Surprised by Joy. Of his friend, A. K. Hamilton Jenkins, Lewis wrote that he “seemed to be able to enjoy everything, even ugliness.” From Jenkins’ example, Lewis learned to, “attempt total surrender to whatever atmosphere was offering at the moment; in a squalid town to seek out those places where it’s squalor rose to grimness and almost grandeur... a serious, yet gleeful determination to rub one’s nose in the very quiddity of each thing, to rejoice in its being (so magnificently) what it was.” I needed to tell Ches about this.
I do not yet understand completely the glee Lewis is referring to. However, the thought of fully appreciating something for what it is, even when unpleasant, awakens a longing within me.
WHAT IS QUIDDITY?
Quiddity is defined in the Google dictionary as
“the inherent nature or essence of something or someone.”
More simply put, the “whatness” of a thing. It is the quality of what makes something or someone unique.
John Piper has been moved by the application of quiddity in his own life. He wrote in his book, Inconsolable Soul, “To wake up in the morning and to be aware of the firmness of the mattress, the warmth of the sun’s rays, the sound of the clock ticking, the coldness of the wooden floor, the wetness of the water in the sink, the sheer being of things. And not just to be aware but to wonder. To be amazed that the water is wet. It did not have to be wet. If there were no such thing as water, and one day someone showed it to you, you would simply be astonished.” He says, “Quiddity awakens a desire within my soul.” I too want to appreciate the quality of the uniqueness of people and things around me.
QUIDDITY CAN HELP US...
ACCEPT THE UGLY AND UNPLEASANT PARTS OF LIFE
I’ve spent a lifetime running from and denying the hard parts of life. But these difficult aspects of my journey have played a major part in who I am today. The unpleasant parts of life have been used to prune my heart as I desire to be full of joy in the Lord always. (Philippians 4:4) Lewis defined Joy in Surprised by Joy as “the experience of an unsatisfied desire, which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.”
Lord, help me to fully embrace all moments of my life. Help me understand, that in Your sovereignty, You allow me to experience all manner of people and things for Your purposes. Teach me to embrace and cherish all You bring my way, the pleasant and the unpleasant.
TAKE THE FOCUS OFF OURSELVES
Fully embracing my surroundings, appreciating the quiddity of all aspects of my journey, keeps me from worrying about me. I’m complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10). Therefore, I’m able to be more fully present with Him in each moment. This is extremely liberating.
Lord, You’ve given me five senses to appreciate life’s moments. You’ve taken care of me. I don’t have to clutter my mind with regrets from the past or concerns for the future. Please keep me focused on the present and teach me how to fully appreciate the qualities of the people and objects You bring my way.
LOVE OTHERS AS CHRIST HAS LOVED ME
Appreciating and seeking to understand how intimately God loves me helps me to love others, and our love for others shows we are disciples of Christ (John 13:34).
Lord, You’ve commanded me to love others as You’ve loved me. In John 15:9-12, You tell me that if I do this, I’ll remain in Your love and that You’ll make my joy complete. This is amazing. Please give me a full understanding of the essence and uniqueness of every person You bring my way, even those who seem unpleasant. I ask these things so that I might love them sacrificially, as You have loved me.
Maybe spending more time with Ches will motivate me to rub my nose in the wonder and quiddity of what God has put in front of me to experience Him more with grateful attention and adoration.