Water Hope

I love how he allows room for our human nature, as it is. And yet he is always pointing and drawing our eye and our heart upwards…

Thank you, George. đź’›

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Walk

Remember He is the artist and you are only the picture. You can’t see it. So quietly submit to be painted—i.e., keep fulfilling all the obvious duties of your station (you really know quite well enough what they are!), asking forgiveness for each failure and then leaving it alone. You are in the right way. Walk—don’t keep on looking at it.

–CS Lewis, Collected Letters

Fair Realities

Some things wilt thou not one day turn to dreams?

Some dreams wilt thou not one day turn to fact?

The thing that painful, more than should be, seems,

Shall not thy sliding years with them retract—

Shall fair realities not counteract?

The thing that was well dreamed of bliss and joy—

Wilt thou not breathe thy life into the toy? —

~George MacDonald

III Limbo

Then I dreamed that John looked aside on the right hand of the road and saw a little island, of willow trees amid the swamps, where ancient men sat robed in black, and the sound of their sighing reached his ears.

‘That place,’ said the Guide, ‘Is the same which you called the Valley of Wisdom when you passed it before: But now that you are going East you may call it Limbo, or the twilit porches of the black hole.’

‘Who live there?’ asked John, ‘and what do they suffer?’

‘Very few live there, and they are all men like old Mr. Wisdom – men who have kept alive and pure the deep desire of the soul but through some fatal flaw, of pride or sloth or, it may be, timidity, have refused till the end the only means to its fulfillment; taking huge pains, often, to prove to themselves that the fulfilment is impossible. They are very few because old Wisdom has few sons who are true to him, and the most part of those who come to him either go on and cross the canyon, or else, remaining his sons in name, secretly slip back to feed on worse fare than his. To stay long where he lives requires both a strange strength and a strange weakness. As for their sufferings, it is their doom to live for ever in desire without hope.’

‘Is it not rather harsh of the Landlord to make them suffer at all?

‘I can answer that only by hearsay,’ returned the Guide, ‘for pain is a secret which he has shared with your race and not with mine; and you would find it as hard to explain suffering to me as I should find it to reveal to you the secrets of the Mountain people. But those who know best say this,  that any liberal man would choose the pain of this desire, even for ever, rather than the peace of feeling it no longer; and that though the best thing is to have, the next best is to want, and the worst of all is not to want.’

‘I see that, ‘ said John. ‘Even the wanting, though it is pain too, is more precious than anything else we experience.’

‘It is as i foresaw, and you understand it already better than I can. But there is this also. the Landlord does not condemn them to lack of hope: they have done that themselves. The Landlord’s interference is all on the other side. Left to itself, the desire without the hope would soon fall back to spurious satisfactions, and these souls would follow it of their own free will into far darker regions at the very bottom of the black hole. What the Landlord has done is to fix it for ever: and by his art, though unfulfilled, it is uncorrupted. Men say that his love and his wrath are one thing. Of some places in the black hole you cannot see this, though you can believe it: but of that Island yonder under the willows, you can see it with your own eyes.’

‘I see it very well,’ said John.

then the Guide sang:

 

‘God in His mercy made

The fixed pains of Hell.

That Misery might be stayed,

God in His mercy made

Eternal bounds and bade

Its waves no further swell.

God in his mercy made

The fixed pains of Hell.’

 

– CS Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress

Notes: On Love, and Timelessness

I just finished a new read of Sheldon Vanauken’s A Severe Mercy, and it is hard to sieze upon the right words to describe the feeling impressed upon me… It is a story about love, strength, courage, loyalty, beauty, goodness, and hope, I think. I am impressed by a couple of points.

  1. The depth of their thought and idealism, even as pagans (or especially so), and their willingness and strength to uphold the standards and ideals they decided on. I feel that their story is a beautiful example of how love can be nurtured, guarded and checked, so that it may flourish. I think if more of us followed in their example, we too would have a love so large.
  2. An obvious distinction: that love worshipped for its own sake, as a god, on its own, is not a full or complete good, and therefore not good enough to be called a “god.” Even the fact that their jealousy for their love made them seek solitude, or reject having children shows me that they didn’t understand or appreciate the good of having other people in their lives. A fact I think they would have been able to observe in hindsight, and which they did about friends, at least. I don’t know if they were ever able to appreciate what they had lost out on in not having children.
  3. I think that the search for beauty, completeness or total fulfillment, timelessness and home are deep in the heart of all of us. And when we see something good or true or beautiful, it is natural that we should want it, and think we should pursue it. But interestingly enough, the way God has designed this life is such that we must not seek first these pleasures and fruits, and if we do, we find we do not actually get the thing we wanted. So we are instructed that we must not go straight for the shining jewel in the cave of wonders, we must find another, duller looking object. We are told seek first the kingdom of God, and that we must first learn the lessons on what he is teaching us is good, right, true, and pure. And if we do this, then – all these “good” things shall be added unto us. But it is a paradoxical sort of thing, we desire beauty, and yet He knows that first we must learn to be good. Somehow we cannot have or appreciate or even fully enjoy these things, until we learn about goodness first.
  4. I loved Lewis’s final counsel to Van; it was so right, so complete, and so good. To seek eternal beauty, and an “endless” love is not, somehow given to us. And yet something of what they achieved was so beautiful – a unity that is truly rare and priceless. I was proud of Van for being strong enough and dedicated to truth enough to receive it, as from a brother and a father in Christ.

This was a beautiful book, and a truly inspiring journey, both times I read it. It was not perfect, but it was good, and it brought thoughts into my world that I hadn’t encountered before. I hope anyone looking to find a picture of beauty, unity, strength, love, learning, growth, courage and hope will read this book. There are many poignant and beautiful moments scattered throughout, and the correspondence with Lewis is wonderful and insightful.