“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Whispers of Eternity: A Deeper Longing

Where then is meaning to be found? Where can we fully quench our thirst and satisfy our longing? We are always searching for something deeper, something higher, and even when we come a step closer and feel as if we are reaching contentment because we have loving family and friends or are surrounded by beauty in nature – even then that hidden place where the grass is green is still “out there.” In The Weight of Glory, Lewis writes that “the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret” (p. 40). In speaking of the “desire for our own far-off country,” Lewis says he is:

“trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism…We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter.” (pp. 29-30)
But the problem is that the desire is “still wandering and uncertain of its object” (p. 33):

“The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things – the beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only 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 yet visited.” (pp. 30-31)
For me, it is often a desire to go to other worlds where the sky is bigger and the trees are taller and the earth is richer and there are hidden places and paths that go on and on into the unknown – somehow magical, as if there was a deep music built into the world itself. Tolkien and Lewis capture this mysterious but delightful sense of distant, other beauty in their worlds. But then I think – if I were to come to such a world and find some hidden valley under the stars, would I be content to stay there? I find this extremely difficult to imagine. What comes to mind more easily is the thought that, were I “there,” wherever “there” is, I would want to set out on another adventure leading to a more glorious ending or find a longer road leading to a still deeper, more beautiful place. Even my weak imaginings of heaven are of this sort. It eludes me even in my thought – I cannot even comprehend it, yet I have such a strong sense that there is a greater, lasting contentment to be found somewhere out there in reality. For me, it is perhaps music that brings me closest – in particular, Harry Gregson-William’s scores to the Chronicles of Narnia movies. I doubt that anything in the world has brought me closer to seeing the glory and beauty of God. For others it may be the beauty and majesty of the created world – stars and trees and mountains (Psalm 19:1-4). Or maybe it is great stories, or close friendships. As Lewis says, we hear only the echoes, the rumors of glory, and yet even these traces turn our hearts so strongly towards the real thing. It’s what we were made for.

We all feel this desire. We “can’t get no satisfaction.” In an interview for 60 minutes (at the end of this video), Tom Brady said this: “Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, ‘Hey man, this is what is.’ I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think, ‘God, it’s got to be more than this.’ I mean this isn’t, this can’t be what it’s all cracked up to be.” When asked “what’s the answer?,” Brady said, “I wish I knew. I wish I knew. I love playing football and I love being quarterback for this team. But at the same time, I think there are a lot of other parts about me that I’m trying to find.”

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