on eternity and on joy

Do you ever feel like you just can’t handle your own life? That things are all dark and twisty and confusing in your head? Sometimes, I feel like every time I turn around, I’m lost again, fallen, broken and muddled. I’m tired and I’m ready to just stop trying to make my way, to just lay down and sleep until things are better.

The fact of the matter is that I’m now living in world where I’m separated from the perfect and eternal. It’s about sin, it’s about the Fall, it’s about waiting for Christ’s return. The world is broken, and right now, I’m a part of it. C.S. Lewis talks about just this in his sermon “Transposition”, asserting that for now, humanity is in a lower, lesser, poorer dimension and — get this — cannot fully understand or grasp the truth of the higher (that is, heaven).  If you’re interested in his allegory, here it is (I suggest sticking with it. He’s kinda brilliant):

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Let us construct a fable. Let us picture a woman thrown into a dungeon. There she bears and rears a son. He grows up seeing nothing but the dungeon walls, the straw on the floor, and a little patch of the sky seen through the grating, which is too high up to show anything except sky. This unfortunate woman was an artist, and when they imprisoned her she managed to bring with her a drawing pad and a box of pencils. As she never loses the hope of deliverance, she is constantly teaching her son about that outer world which he has never seen. She does it largely by drawing him pictures. With her pencil she attempts to show him what fields, rivers, mountains, cities, and waves on a beach are like. He is a dutiful boy and he does his best to believe her when she tells him that that outer world is far more interesting and glorious than anything in the dungeon. At times he succeeds. On the whole he gets on tolerably well until, one day, he says something that gives his mother pause. For a minute or two they are at cross-purposes. Finally it dawns on her that he has, all these years, lived under a misconception. “But,” she gasps, “you didn’t think that the real world was full of lines drawn in lead pencil?” “What?” says the boy. “No pencil marks there?” And instantly his whole notion of the outer world becomes a blank. For the lines, by which alone he was imagining it, have now been denied of it. He has no idea of that which will exclude and dispense with the lines, that of which the lines were merely a transposition–the waving treetops, the light dancing on the weir, the coloured three-dimensional realities which are not enclosed in lines but define their own shapes at every moment with a delicacy and multiplicity which no drawing could ever achieve. The child will get the idea that the real world is somehow less visible than his mother’s pictures. In reality it lacks lines because it is incomparably more visible.

So with us. “We know not what we shall be” [1 John 3:2]; but we may be sure we shall be more, not less, than we were on earth. Our natural experiences (sensory, emotional, imaginative) are only like the drawing, like pencilled lines on flat paper. If they vanish in the risen life, they will vanish only as pencil lines vanish from the real landscape, not as candle flame that is put out but as a candle flame which becomes invisible because someone has pulled up the blind, thrown open the shutters, and let in the blaze of the risen sun.

You can put it whichever way you please. You can say that by Transposition our humanity, senses and all, can be made the vehicle of beatitude. Or you can say that the heavenly bounties by Transposition are embodied during this life in our temporal experience. But the second way is the better. It is the present life which is the diminution, the symbol, the etiolated, the (as it were) “vegetarian” substitute. If flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom [1 Corinthians 15:50], that is not because they are too solid, too gross, too distinct, too “illustrious with being.” They are too flimsy, too transitory, too phantasmal.” (pp. 109-11)

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Do you get it? Earth and our experiences here are the lesser realm, while heaven is so. much. more. And for now, we actually CAN’T understand that greater realm. It’s beyond what our broken, earthly minds can grasp. It is more real than our reality here on earth. We’re living in a black and white world without knowing that color even exists.

Except… I believe that there’s more to the story, for, as Lewis says, “in varying degrees the lower reality can actually be drawn into the higher and become part of it” (The Weight of Glory 113). This blessed, holy occurrence makes itself known it a feeling that we have named joy. And that’s where the goodness of this world comes in. Occasionally, in the midst of the muddling of our minds, we get a glimpse of something from that other realm, an earthly encounter that is closer to the spiritual than most. It’s this fleeting feeling of beauty and rightness, “the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited” (The Weight of Glory 31). It’s goodness in the midst of pain. You see, it’s bittersweet.

You and I both know that although today may be dark and twisty, we were made for something more. And although we may not be able to understand what heaven will be like (see above), we can rest assured in one thing: whatever it is, it will be better. It will be better. It will be better. If my joy is just a taste, just a touch, then I believe this with all my heart. What a relief. Heaven is waiting.

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3 responses to “on eternity and on joy

  1. Pingback: things that give me heavy boots « Let the Words Escape

  2. Pingback: blessed | Let the Words Escape

  3. Wonderful. I borrowed Weight of Glory from the library and was reading this section today whilst looking for some material on the Gospel this Sunday based on the Gospel Luke 20: 27-38
    “The children of this age marry and remarry;
    but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age
    and to the resurrection of the dead
    neither marry nor are given in marriage.
    They can no longer die,
    for they are like angels;
    and they are the children of God
    because they are the ones who will rise.
    I was looking on the web to see if I could find the section from the book and that’s what led me here. Thanks so much. I’ll be linking to you. My Blog is called Blue Eyed Ennis. Blessings

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