Wednesday, May 16, 2012

God's Country

"'He tried to tell you long ago,' said the man; 'but you would not look.  He had only got canvas and paint in those days, and you wanted to mend your roof with them.  This is what you and your wife used to call Niggle's Nonsense, or That Daubing.'

'But it did not look like this then, not real,' said Parish.

'No it was only a glimpse then,' said the man; 'but you might have caught a glimpse then, if you ever found it worth a try.'"

- Tolkien in "Leaf by Niggle."

I put the book down, with tears welling up in my eyes and a burning in my chest.  "I've got to write about this 'glimpse'," I thought.

In the story cited above, Tolkien expresses truth in such a way that the reader gets a taste of The Taste.  What I mean is that in his little story, "Leaf by Niggle," which I'd never heard of until a friend put me on to it, Tolkien touches something more deep, more profound and more MORE than I'll ever know.

In my brokenness, I can't help but long for something.  In my victory, I can't help but long for something.  In my everyday, I can't help but long for something.  (Hey, and my names "Long" after all.  Har-har!)

I was talking with Melissa a couple of days back as we were riding our bikes through our neighborhood on a unusually refreshingly cool Floridian evening.  As we watched the gentle orange-ish hues of the sun-light at dusk bathe our neighborhood, I couldn't help but just let it out, "Most Christians have no idea about heaven."

And we don't do we?  We picture harps and clouds and big pearly cities and stuff, but it all seems so alien, so foreign and uninviting.  I mean, who wants to lounge on a cloud for eternity and sing?  Won't your throat hurt and won't you get cloud sores?

No, heaven has got to be something wholly different, yet at the same time something wholly the same.  I know this.  As certain as I'm alive, I know this in the very fiber of my bones.  Deep down in the marrow.  It's essential Philip - the good one.

I know that what drives all good art comes from this, a deep and reverential awe and longing for the real, "a glimpse," as Tolkien expressed.  All good desire, all good acts, all, comes from an actual place that is real.

CS Lewis wrote a ton on this, so I'm just rewording what I've read years ago.  But I'm thinking, until we Christians quit thinking of heaven as some place where we'll basically be high all the time, out of our bodies, and singing lame praise and worship songs forever, we're not going to be able to get away from a picture of heaven that just plain sucks.  (Personally, I can't think of anything worse than singing some praise and worship songs forever.  That would be my own, very personalized hell.)

Until we get a clearer vision, or at least a foggy but clearer suspicion that everything that beauty and goodness touches in this world is only a taste of what's to come, we'll not really want God's Country.

My belief, and I hope I'd die for it, is that God is the source of all good and all beauty.  My job as a human being is to reflect God as simply as a daisy reflects the hugely immense and powerful sun.  And as God's rays hit my petals, to reflect, "Could this warmth and light be real?"

This is what keeps me going on days when I hate myself, hate Christianity and hate the world.  Perhaps, just perhaps, everything that wounds my heart will find both a balm of healing in that land and then explode into true love and true passion.

We don't talk of heaven enough.  And I think it's because it's become a lame cartoon in our minds.  Dare to dream that your dreams won't seem to even touch it when you see it, but they will touch it.  So dream.

And won't heaven be a feast?  Loosen your belts Christians, and open your eyes!  Also we might want to put some good paintings up in our pasty white-walled churches.  Just a thought...