Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Part of the Play (musings on sweet desire by an orthodox rebel)

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desire of your heart.... [He] opens [His] hand, and satisfies the desire of every living thing.... He fulfills the desire of those who fear Him." Ps. 37:4; 145:16, 19

I saw a beautiful sunset last week at Shelby Farms. The sun set behind some trees on the other side of a lake. The sky became prismatic, split perfectly into the shades of the spectrum. The trees were jet black in return, and the smooth surface of the lake doppelgangered the whole image. As I stood there trying to take it all in, I attempted to assess the feelings moving inside of me. For some reason, I felt it was not good enough to simply stand and watch. I felt the need to do something, anything. Write a song or poem, do a dance or clap my hands, shout to the sky or even go for a swim. Dive right into that glassy, cold water, swim across it and then right up the trees and into the colors of the sky. Whatever it was I felt like doing, one thing was certain: being a spectator just wasn't satisfactory.

The experience reminded me of every time I go to see a play. I love plays, partially because of my education and partially because I've acted in them before. So I try to go see them whenever I can. However, I also hate plays because they make me sad in the end. Comedy or tragedy, I invariably discover that being a member of the audience is dissatisfying. I want to be in the play, to take up a role like one takes up a mantle, and be a part of that stage and in the midst of that story. Something bigger than me is happening before my eyes, something too glorious and important to just sit and watch. I want to become a part of what I see, to perform with the performance, to be one with the play. That is how I felt watching the sunset.

Some might say (not unfairly) that my analogy breaks down. I had said that one of the reasons I love plays and want to be in one is because I've been in them before. It is a desire for return, but how exactly can I "return" to the sunset? Have I ever before been one with that kaleidoscope ceiling of the soon sleeping sky? It sounds impossible, of course. However, if I feel bound to remain consistent with my analogy (and I do), then I would have to say that I have indeed been one with the sunset at some point in time. We all have. That is what Eden means. It is not just some tale about naked people in a jungle. It is about original humanity living an existence that we have long forgotten, and yet not completely forgotten. It has been imprinted onto our very souls, for our souls were made to walk with God.

At the origin of all things, we walked with God and all that He is. We were not spectators then: we were part of the play. How horrible is the separation Sin has wrought upon us! We have deliberately flung ourselves away from the central light of the stage to the outer dark of the audience. Worse still, we cannot even see the play anymore, for a veil is erected between us and it. Between us and Him. For now, we can only sense hints and riddles, seeing patchworks of shadows and colors, and even the small joys of spectating (which do exist) are reduced to aching guesswork. So now we sit in the dark, with our guesses, and our painful longings to return somewhere that we can't remember anymore. Of course, in Christ the veil is torn in two, but we too easily lose the wonder of it. We forget that Christ did not tear down the veil between us and moralisms or good behavior; rather, He tore down the veil between us and God, us and the Play, us and the Beauty at the back of all things.

Take your wildest dream or imagination, the one that haunts and hurts your whether waking or sleeping. I tell you that it is all true. One day, it will all be true. One day, faith shall be sight. We will return to the stage, we will cross through the woods, we will dive into the ocean, we will swim across the waters and through the trees and into the sky and then past the sky and stars and spheres to where we will come face-to-face with the King in His beauty and bright array. All the hints and hurts of glory on this world are but the screen upon which Reality is only a blur. That sensuous curtain is not a cheat, but a promise, a promise of greater things yet to be seen, yet to be done. One day it will roll away like a scroll being rolled together, and we will see and be like and be one with the One whose colors are the colors of the dawn. Amen.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

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