Today I read the Weight of Glory by CS Lewis which is available online here.
His essay is a reflection on this verse:
2 Corinthians 4:17
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
How inadequate my words seem to me as I attempt to explain what a wonderful way of escape these thoughts have been for me. I will have to be content with quoting from Lewis and then writing some thoughts in the hope that Lewis words will make up for the deficiencies in mine.
Lewis explains the difference between unselfishness and love. Love is the Christian ideal. It is giving up for another not just giving up for its own sake.
“The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself.”
The mountain climber endures many hardships. There is a joy and sense of achievement when one gets to the top of the mountain that far outweighs the pain ( I presume because I have not climbed mountains;-). The climber also somehow enjoys the journey itself too. This is also true of the Christian life. It is a call to self-denial but not for its own sake. There is a reward which is far greater than any loss. Although I think the rewards are mostly future ie after our resurrection (or on the top of the mountain), I think we experience a fore taste of this in the here and now ie on the climb. At least I have.
“If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith.”
It has been my experience that I find no greater pleasure and joy that following Christ. I am a Christian Hedonist. To quote John Piper:
“My shortest summary of Christian Hedonism is: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”
“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
But recently I have not felt satisfied with God. That is a bad place to be. When you are not satisfied with God other things can take your heart. I believe even in my grief I can be satisfied with God. Old thought patterns, things from my past that I thought that had long been dealt with keep rearing their ugly head. Why was I in this bad “head-space”? I have been struggling with singleness. It is not the fact I am now a single parent of 3 teenagers and 5 children. It is not that I have to juggle homeschooling, household tasks and part time work. It is not that I so miss Dave’s sense of humour. It was not that I miss the communication at a heart level that exists between a man and woman who know each so well. It was not the loneliness of losing the one person in the world that knows you best. It was not that I miss the physical intimacy between us. It was something else.
It was only when I read Lewis words to explain what glory was, that I realised what it was I was longing for and how it was still available to me as a widow.
Now if you will bear with me a little longer I will try and explain with a long quote:
“And then, when I had thought it over, I saw that this view was scriptural; nothing can eliminate from the parable the divine accolade, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” With that, a good deal of what I had been thinking all my life fell down like a house of cards. I suddenly remembered that no one can enter heaven except as a child; and nothing is so obvious in a child—not in a conceited child, but in a good child—as its great and undisguised pleasure in being praised. Not only in a child, either, but even in a dog or a horse. Apparently what I had mistaken for humility had, all these years. prevented me from understanding what is in fact the humblest, the most childlike, the most creaturely of pleasures—nay, the specific pleasure of the inferior: the pleasure a beast before men, a child before its father, a pupil before his teacher, a creature before its Creator. …
But I thought I could detect a moment—a very, very short moment—before this happened, during which the satisfaction of having pleased those whom I rightly loved and rightly feared was pure. And that is enough to raise our thoughts to what may happen when the redeemed soul, beyond all hope and nearly beyond belief, learns at last that she has pleased Him whom she was created to please. There will be no room for vanity then. She will be free from the miserable illusion that it is her doing. With no taint of what we should now call self-approval she will most innocently rejoice in the thing that God has made her to be, and the moment which heals her old inferiority complex for ever will also drown her pride deeper than Prospero’s book. Perfect humility dispenses with modesty. If God is satisfied with the work, the work may be satisfied with itself; “it is not for her to bandy compliments with her Sovereign.”
“The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God. To please God…to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness…to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.”
You see my most satisfying work up until now has been being a wife to Dave. For many years I made it my goal to be a helpmeet suitable for him. It has not been an easy journey especially in the early years. But in the journey I have glimpsed that “weight of glory”. Especially during Dave’s illness, I glimpsed the godly satisfaction of having pleased the one whom I rightly loved. I believe I pleased God but also my beloved husband. Many times Dave would say to me “what would I do without you”, because I was part of God’s grace to him. So in those moments I believe I had a glimpse of the overwhelming joy that will be ours when God says to us “Well done good and faithful servant.” ie a glimpse of the weight of glory. Not that I was a perfect wife.
On the 5th December it would have been our wedding anniversary.
Last year on this date Dave wrote:
“Today Tarnya and I celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary. I am more thankful to God for her than I could ever put into words. She has been an unwavering support. She has encouraged me in my strengths, challenged me to grow in areas of weakness (by her life, not by “nagging”!), and I can’t imagine how life could be any sweeter.
As they say when writing books, after thanking all those who contributed so much, any errors and omissions are entirely the fault of the author. I would not be all that I am without Tarnya but any “errors and omissions” in my life are entirely my fault not hers.”
Update: It wasn’t just the satisfaction of doing a good job. It felt if I had lost a part of my person hood and also a sense of belonging. It is easy to define what it means to be a woman before God in terms of being a wife. But I am reminded that Jesus was single and if anyone was whole person it is/was him. The glory that Lewis talks about is when we are what we are meant to be. I hope that makes sense.
But I do not need to be a wife to be what I am meant to be now. It was a wonderful journey with Dave but it is over. I don’t know why, but God knows. I trust God that Dave’s suffering “worketh for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;”
I am confident God has other work for me that will be as equally satisfying and joyful and this thought has been my way of escape. And by work I don’t mean just doing, I mean new things that I am “being”. Like being a mother is a great deal of doing but it is a state of being. I have just ordered Redeeming Singleness on the Biblical theology of singleness. For me thinking rightly enables me to feel rightly.
Thank you to those that pray for wisdom for me.