Seeing Beyond The Shadowlands
It has long been my contention that the Reformed church never quite got over the Enlightenment. While we rightly reject this premise and that conclusion at the heart of the Enlightenment experiment, we still drink deep of its spirit. We deny that this world is all there is, but we live as though this world is all there is. We are willing to admit that the spiritual realm, the unseen, is real, but in turn we insist that the natural realm, the seen, is more real. We live as though all there is is this. In short, we lack faith.
Our eyes see a church that is corrupt, compromised and inconsequential. His Word tells us that we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places. We sit with Him who has already overcome the world. Our hearts see our own individual sins, our failures, our infidelities. His word tells us we are being remade, that He who began a good work in us will see it through to the day of Christ Jesus. Our minds see our strategies, our alliances, as we seek change. His Word tells us it is through the foolishness of preaching that the souls are won and the world remade.
The truth is we live, as C.S. Lewis pointed out, in the Shadowlands. This world is being remade. We will spend eternity here, in the new heavens and the new earth. This is the world our Savior came to rescue, and we ought never to diminish it. In waging war against Gnosticism, however, we need to be careful not to wage war against heaven. In his great work The Great Divorce Lewis recounts a sort of field trip some sinners take from hell to if not heaven, at least its foothills. (Look for the movie, with N.D. Wilson as screenwriter, scheduled to be released this year). As the souls disembark their bus they squeal in pain. As they walk across the grass if feels to them like blades of diamonds. Why? The grass is dense to the point of pain precisely because it is so real. It carries the unbearable weight, the sublime beauty of being.
As we grow older, indeed as we suffer the pangs of this side of the veil, it seems by His grace the veil grows more thin, more gauzy. We move from hungering to get as much done in this life as we can, from squeezing life dry, to anticipating the freshness of eternity. As we grow older we come to understand that we’ve been looking at reality inside out. We no longer ponder what the other side must be like, and come to understand that we are on the other side. Here are the Shadowlands, and there is the Light who casts His shadow. As we grow older we come to understand that the haunting melodies of Pachelbel , the soaring descants of Palestrina, these are just the orchestra getting in tune before the curtain goes up. As we grow older we come to understand that every dram of laughter, every scent of joy, these are but the echoes of eternity. As we grow older we come to understand that our Master Carpenter is indeed preparing a place for us, even as He prepares us for a place. If it were not so, would He have not told us?