Friday, September 23, 2011
on wonder and pain
Sometimes when we're out camping I'll tell Allen it feels like Christmas, but when I've tried to explain why it doesn't really translate. Sometimes I'll say it feels like Thanksgiving, but that doesn't translate well either. There's no lights or presents and the only turkey comes sliced from Trader Joes. And yet there are days that will stay with me. Often when I want to think I write, and in trying to form the first awkward sentences of this post I think I've figured out what I mean when I say that a day feels like Christmas. On the surface of it Christmas connotates wonder and joy and fulfilled anticipation. On the trail this can translate into a beautiful campsite and a warm supper or a double rainbow after an unexpected storm. Every trail or park promises a bit of magic and wonder, and sometimes they deliver in full measure pressed down and running over. But when I say a day feels like Christmas I don't just mean the Christmas of stuffed turkey and bright lights - a day that delivers an satisfactory emotional experience. Every Nativity points to the Cross - joy leads to suffering which ultimately leads to abiding joy which can, though promised and assured, seem like a distant dream of peace as we slog through our present troubles. In Christmas we see wonder, redemption, and joy embrace a suffering world. Christ came because He felt the miserable weight of our sin. Pain, wonder, mutability, mortality, and eternity mingle together. So when I say a day feels like Christmas I could mean that I'm baking an apple pie on a crisp day and am savoring the smell of spices. It could mean that something unexpectedly lovely has happened. Many times though, it will mean that even as my senses dance with the day, the view, and whatever treat up I'm cooking over my camp stove I'm struck by a deep yearning, almost a nostalgia, over how quickly these moments pass and how powerless I am to keep them with me. The very things that make them rare and beautiful make them hurt. In a moment I will hike down the trail, drive away, finish my tea, or unplug the lights, but for one more moment I marvel. It could be that I will never again see or experience anything quite like this. At times like these I find my heart yearning for eternity, and oddly enough the very mountains that break my heart with beauty speak again and speak comfort. The Bible says that we can have no idea of what eternity will be like - that it isn't within heart or mind of man to conceive what glories will exist in the New Jerusalem. The most beautiful mountain meadow is a dim reflection of the beauty we'll find in heaven. It reminds me that I can long in hope and marvel in hope because the One who boggles my mind with dragonflies and mountain passes is preparing things which are as far above my present conception as the notion of surfing would be to an infant. For now, though, I will continue to feed my soul on these small tokens of eternity, and when my heart breaks with hearing Creation's Advent cry for our Savior to deliver it I will remember the first advent and try to be content knowing we are that much closer to our final deliverance.