Saturday, 9 April 2011

The place where the beauty comes from

It's the wonderful CS Lewis again.  Really, I must read more of his stuff, and not just 'The Screwtape Letters' and Narnia. The way he seems to drop wonderful gems of wisdom and insight so effortlessly  into his letters and musings delights me. What about this one:

"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."
C.S. Lewis (Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold)

What did you think when you heard him say that, Father?  I bet you smiled.  And now this exceptional man is with you; he's home.  I wonder if it's just as he thought it would be. 

I love this picture.  'The place where all the beauty came from...the longing for home.'
There are days when I really understand what he means; CS Lewis just sums it up for me. The days where things are too hard, require too much effort; when failure seems inevitable, and the simplest task is daunting.  Days like that make me long for a world where the struggling stops.  I don't mean that I have a desperately hard life - I know that I don't.  I know that there are many millions of people in this world who'd swap with me in an instant and I wouldn't want to swap with them.   What I'm talking about is the hamster-wheel feeling that I get occasionally where I feel that I'm running to stand still, and most of the stuff that I'm struggling with is trivia that's getting in the way of the important stuff.  

John Keats said in his poem, 'Ode to a Grecian Urn':

'Beauty is truth, truth, beauty - that is all
ye know on earth, and all ye need to know'

...and I think he got it right, didn't he?  Because you are Beauty, you are Truth, and you are all we need to know.  You are the source of all that is good, lovely, beautiful, awesome, impressive, true. I should look up more, instead of looking down.  Instead of watching my feet in case I trip or step in something, I should look up towards your beauty.  Instead of concentrating on where I am, or where I've been, I should concentrate on where I'm going. I spend so much time looking over my shoulder, down at the ground, or in at myself that I sometimes don't see what CS Lewis saw.  I get an occasional glimpse; those moments when I'm tired, despairing, defeated - those are the times when I am immensely comforted that this is not all there is.  But to live in this world, patiently, while knowing that I'm not at home here, that home is somewhere else, where one day I'll be; that's amazing.  I'm not there yet.

I hang onto the things of this world too much.  I like being here.  Today the sun is shining and the plants are growing and the sky is blue, and it's a Friday and in about half an hour I'll be going to pick Bryan up from the station - so in my world things are generally ok.  Pretty good, even.  I'm planning which wine we'll open, what we'll watch on the telly and what I'll cook for tea.  The children are in the garden with a picnic and at the moment they're not squabbling.  When all is well, I think I can cope.  I think I can do it on my own, and that's where I come unstuck.  That's where I forget CS Lewis' vision of Home and actually I've made myself comfy here, living my little life with only occasional reference to you. I have so much that I rate so highly and yet in your eyes it amounts to nothing. I surround myself with things and people and opinions and ways of passing my time and yet there's a much much bigger picture that CS Lewis saw that I only glimpse occasionally. All my 'stuff' isn't worth anything in comparison. 

And then there are times when it all goes wrong and I turn to you, anxiously searching for you like a toddler who looks up to realise that the legs next to her are not her Mummy's legs after all. I can't handle it because I am not equipped; all the 'stuff' isn't worth anything when I need real help. Only you will do, and I run to you from whichever outpost of my life I've been exploring.  I dash back home out of the rain. I find my shelter in you and wonder why I ever left, only to set out again without a backward glance when the sun comes out next time.   I am such a Rainy Weather Friend. 

There's a place, isn't there.  A place where I'll be one day and I'll stay.  I imagine it might be like holding a baby in your arms for the very first time after giving birth - this little miracle held close, smeary and slippery and screaming and screwed up; you meet for that momentous first time, never held in your arms before, never heard, never seen, but this little creature is oddly familiar.  It feels familiar, it smells familiar; it's as if you've known each other all your life even though you've only just met.  I reckon that might be how it is in Heaven.  When I get there I'll look about and recognise it from the glimpses; from the moments that you left the door open a crack so I could see in.  It will be the source of all beauty; how could it be other, since it is where you are? 

And as CS Lewis said, it'll be like coming home.

Amen, Lord Jesus. 

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