Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Reprised by Joy

Recently I visited my family in my home town to find both it and them changed. The heroes of my life who held me up for so long are growing weak and breaking down. Grandpa (mom's dad) soldiers on though Parkinson's disease has all but immobilized him. He moves with a slow steady shuffle and struggles just to stand. Grandma (mom's mom) died several years ago. The things that he once looked forward to are now in his past. He looks now to the future of his grandchildren and great grandchildern rather than to his own. You can see it. He often looks at us with a knowing smile as if to say he's ready to go, glad to be leaving this place in good hands.

Memaw (Dad's mom) suffers from memory loss, and we all grieve as she loses the parts of herself that we still have, memories of her and her strength. It is strange to think now that in some ways we remember her better than she remembers herself. Perhaps that's how it is meant to be. I'm working harder to remember her now that she forgets.

Pepaw (Dad's dad) cares for her in a way we never would have seen had she never gotten sick. I wonder also if that's the way it was meant to be. The depth of his love for her would have remained unknown even to him without being tested. Now we all know. I'm glad for that.

As I see things change I have a strange grief. It is as if I can't bear the loss of how things once were. At the same time the thought of going back to that time would mean losing something now. I feel this strange ache in my chest for something I can't explain. It's like nostalgia but something different. I'm hungry for some shadow of the past cast by something great in the future...or perhaps outside time altogether. It is a hopeful hurt, a hunger that nothing in this world can fulfill.

C.S. Lewis calls this ache "joy". I think he is right to call it that. It is that momentary longing for something beyond this world, a longing that itself is greater than any other fulfillment in this world. According to Lewis, desire is evidence that the object of desire exists. In other words, if there is in me a longing for something that nothing in this world desires, then my heart must be longing for something outside of this world.

My heart comes back to this "Joy" again and again. It is the thing that makes this world seem like mere shadow, that makes the next one seem like the real thing. It often shows up in inexplicable heartaches that last for days. Though, at times I have felt it with great intensity, coming out of nowhere for a brief moment. I believe it is God working in my heart to make sure I love the next world more than I love this one. After all, that's my real home.

Maybe its the change in season, maybe its the nostalgic trip, maybe its the fact that I just buried one of my friends and heroes to day. This joy is calling me out of comfort, beckoning me to look more for the things of heaven than for the things of this earth. Its calling me to love God more, to love people more, to celebrate reconciliation and redemption.

Strange to think the things I want from this world aren't really of this world.

What are some things that make you long for heaven?

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