On June 28, 1963 Lewis writes to Mary Willis Shelburne:
“Think of yourself just as a seed patiently waiting in the earth: waiting to come up a flower in the Gardner’s good time, up into the real world, the real waking. I suppose that our whole present life, looked back on from there, will seem only a drowsy half-waking. We are here in the land of dreams. But cock-crow is coming. It is nearer now than when I began this letter.”
As I ponder Lewis’s words to Shelburne…
I appreciate the idea of this life being a Shadowlands, of “seeing through a glass darkly” and “now I know in part, then I shall know face to face” (1Cor. 13:12). I was a storehouse of certain knowledge when I was young; the trouble was that much of my certain knowledge was indigestible to many (most?) people; it was hardtack that had to be soaked in grace and patience before it could be eaten, and even then its nutritional value was questionable.
I know a lot less today, but I think that’s a good thing in that I see Christ a bit clearer than decades ago. It is like traveling toward the Rocky Mountains from the east; they look so close at first and you think you’ll soon be there, but one hour passes and then another and then another, and though they still look close you realize they are far away. When we are young in Christ certainties of the Kingdom rise up before us and we think we are there; we don’t know that we have many miles to travel and many things to learn before we reach the foot of the mountains – and we haven’t even begun the ascent!
While this life may be a Shadowlands, what happens in this life matters; this life is not a land of dreams in terms of unreality, in terms of it not being real; this life is very real. Some of the things we encounter in this life as Christians may not last, such as pain and sorrow, but this life is real and this life matters. Jesus Christ died in time-space history and our sin and sins were dealt with by God on the Cross some 2,000 years ago – so this life, this planet, eternally matters; our witness to others and our own lives eternally matter. Christians have been dying to share the Gospel with others for 2,000 years because there are two exit doors in this vestibule of life; one is the door of the Good Shepherd and the other a door into an unfathomable abyss. As Lewis might say, one door is labeled “God’s will” and the other “Man’s Will”.
Jesus says, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is cast into the oven, will he not much more cloth you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:28 – 30).
Of course when Lewis writes about the Shadowlands and uses terms such as drowsy half-waking he is not suggesting that this life does not matter; he is rather reminding us that we know so little and understand so little in this life, and that the desire for joy and beauty and fullness that God has placed within us will one day be consummated in His Presence.
“No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever,” Revelation 22:3-5.