Made for Another World

By

There are times when I’m driving home from a friend’s house, from an evening filled with good food and wine, laughter, great conversation, and friendly competition in boggle or speed scrabble or dutch blitz, and I’m almost overwhelmed by a feeling of loneliness, of aloneness. I’m always surprised by it. It makes me wonder what I was hoping for, what I wanted from that night. Last week, my friend Andy Osenga wrote a blog post after seeing the new Batman movie, about how it revealed to him (again) that he was putting his hope in the wrong things.
He wrote,

“Was I really putting my hope in some movie, you might say? Hoping it would do do what? I don’t know, honestly, but I do know I was disappointed that I wasn’t different after watching it, that it hadn’t changed me. Which means, at some absurd and obviously flawed level, I was putting my hope in a movie. And this is something we all do. Whether it’s Batman or the new Coldplay or U2. We can put our hope there. Or we can put it in our pastor’s sermons or our small group’s honesty. We can put our hope there. We can put it in the girl that got away or in making love with the one we married. We can put our hope there. We have some bit of hope that it will change us, make us better. Or we’re trapped in some cycle of secrets and habits we can’t escape. Maybe this thing will curb our appetite for the sins that we feel define our secret selves, or at least it will let us not think about it for a while. Or at least it will make us feel. We’ve been so numbed for so long, for some unknown and hated reason, that we can’t feel anymore, and maybe this thing will connect us, revive us. And at some point we’ll have to look at this thing, this movie or relationship or feeling, however truly good it may be, and say: “is this all?”

read the rest of Andy’s post here

When I read that the other night, this quote from C.S. Lewis came to mind: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”


13 Comments

  1. Stacy Grubb

    Stephen,

    I’m sitting here a little stunned at reading this. It’s after 1 AM and I had to get out of bed because it was doing me no good lying in it. I can’t sleep. I can’t sleep because I’m feeling….weird. I guess it’s sadness, but it’s also void. I was lying there wondering what I’m so sad about; in what way am I so unfulfilled that I’m thinking about life and feeling like saying, “What’d I ever do to you?” Because tonight I feel like it’s beating me up and knocking me down. Or at least letting me down. Sometimes I feel like if I could just have this one thing, or see this specific dream come to fruition, then I’d be happy. I’d be vindicated. I’d prove something, then. Then I get to feeling like that song, “Satisfied Mind.”

    Anyway, so I was going a little batty thinking of “Satisfied Mind” so I decided to change my scenery and start thinking of something else until I was too tired to think and then I’d go back to bed. I ended up here to find that someone out there is thinking about the same thing I was thinking about.

    Of course, I can’t add anything of merit because it’s after 1 AM and I’m trying to quit thinking. But I couldn’t not say something because the words you said and the reason I’m awake to read them are so similar. I don’t know what to think about it right now.

    Stacy

  2. Stephen Lamb

    @stephen-lamb

    I was thinking about this again, and remembered that my favorite passages from Andrew’s novel touch on the same issue. Instead of typing them out again, I’ll quote the relevant paragraph from my review:

    ~~~~~~~~~~~

    My favorite part in On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is the story of when the town gathers on the edge of the cliffs to hear the dragons, rising from the depths of the dark sea of darkness, sing, which happens once a year. We get the first inkling of the beauty of their song from the opening paragraph of the chapter: “A long, warm note like the sound of a yawning mountain rose in the air and bounced off the belly of the sky. The deep echo was absorbed by the tall trees of Glipwood Forest and was answered a moment later by a higher sound that felt like a soft rain.” And then, as the dragons begin to sing, echoing Buechner, Andrew writes: “All of the passion and sadness and joy of those who listened wound into one common strand of feeling that was to Janner like homesickness, though he couldn’t think why; he was just a short walk from the only home he’d every known.” And later, when the children hear Armulyn, the traveling bard, sing, Janner is embarrassed when he finds tears in his eyes. He doesn’t know why, but tries to explain it to his mom: “There’s just something about the way he sings. It makes me think of when it snows outside, and the fire is warm, and Podo is telling us a story while you’re cooking, and there’s no place I’d rather be – but for some reason I still feel…homesick.”

  3. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    “We ache for what is lost,” as AP puts it.

    The ex-Lightbearer deceived Eve into thinking she could be her own source – that by her own senses she could distinguish what was best for her, and what was good, and what was evil.

    And God knew it was happening, knew the misery the human race was going to plunge into.

    If He is sovereign and omniscient, He’s got purpose in it. He “meant it for good” as Joseph told his brothers.

    We’re being prepared, schooled. We are beings whose sole satisfaction will be found in having God inside us, willing and acting according to His own good pleasure – doing His will through His power. He is the Light, and we are just the carriers of that, mirrors, image-bearers, whatever we want to call it. And we’ve been created with that deep longing for something “other.”

    I thought (though now I couldn’t call it ‘thinking’), back when I was in my teens and twenties, that I could fill that longing with music, and approval of others, and the satisfaction of playing well, and of having others understand me.

    But here’s the thing about that – the longing can’t be filled with anything finite. People don’t always approve; we don’t always play well, and others, when we get right down to it, don’t ever fully understand us. Only One does.

    Although there is a “now and not yet” paradigm in Scripture, we as Christians often put almost our entire focus on the “not yet.” But even in this unfulfillable longing, we have a contact point with the Infinite that completes the incomplete. That contact point, that Spirit, is inside us. He is, in fact, a God who hides Himself, because He’s looking for people who will trust Him no matter what we feel, think, hear, experience. But He is there, inside us, and wants that longing in us to turn us to a deeper search, a deeper reliance, a deeper walk with Him. In that way the longing is God’s calling card.

    Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
    Come to the waters;
    And you who have no money,
    Come, buy and eat.
    Yes, come, buy wine and milk
    Without money and without price.
    2 Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
    And your wages for what does not satisfy?
    Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
    And let your soul delight itself in abundance.

    It’s the negative of being thirsty, hungry, that is our ticket to being filled, as Stephen’s Lewis quote suggests. The thing is we already have what we need – we just can’t see it, feel it, sense it. It is Something that has to be believed, faithed in, relied upon – Eternity in our hearts. “He that believes has eternal life.” We’ve got that Life in us, and He is our contact point with all things eternal.

    But God is schooling us – that’s why that Life in us is not more often tangible. Screwtape: “You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to over-ride a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo.” And later in the same letter: “Our couse is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

  4. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Sheesh my posts are long. In this little window it’s hard to tell, and then when I hit “submit” and see it come up, I’m..well…rather winded just looking at it.

  5. Tony Heringer

    Stephen…thanks for the post. Don’t know if I’ll make it over to Andy’s post (I’ve already committed to reading another post — should it ever end :-)).

    When we really “abide in Christ” we do have the connection that Ron mentioned above and it does satisfy. Each time I come to The Lord’s Table and, as Barliman noted in an interview with Michael Card, each wedding I attend points out a someday beginning of a great and wonderful time that will be timeless. But it also reminds me that in Jesus Christ we now have the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). The “now” of the “now and not yet” is the joy in this life that James talks about in his epistle and Paul really talks about in Philippians.

    Jesus, our Lord and King, will return and when He does this place will be restored to its original good state of being. That other world we long for is the world we abandoned in the garden. That same world is around us groaning for that day when it will be released from the corruption we continue to bring upon it and we should be groaning and pining also. That’s why Jesus can say to the Pharisees in Luke 19:40 “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Talk about a rock concert 🙂

    And yet, we get caught up in lesser things as Lewis says in The Weight Of Glory ” 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.” I would add here that we are pleased in that we see these things as ends and not the means for growing closer to Christ. When we seem them as means, these times with friends or taking in a film like “The Dark Knight” can help us to greater appreciate what God has in store for us and we’ll behave like kids waiting on Christmas morning. Kids groan as it seems so long for that blessed time to arrive—ever hopeful for that special gift to arrive.

    That’s why Peter can say in 1 Peter 3:15 “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Our hope is fuel for evangelism. People see it and they are drawn to it.

    In keeping with Ron’s theme, the “now” should be driving our desire for the “not yet.” “To live is Christ…” says Paul and therefore Christians, of all people, should be the most alive. Then Paul adds the “not yet” by saying “to die is gain.” He wrestles with this question by saying “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.” (Phil. 1:21-26)

    In the end God has us here for a purpose and in the mess of it all we are working out His plan of brining “joy in Christ Jesus” to those around us. That makes the journey to the world we were made for joyful indeed.

  6. Easton

    Stacy- Isn’t it funny how one thing can be felt by so many people at once? Lat night I was nearly in tears over loneliness and the fear of moving back into a house that my mate of 12 years had abandoned. I wanted something, and couldn’t say what it was. This post has helped to put it into perspective.

    Thanks to all of you for writing and helping to understand more of what this life means.

  7. Stacy Grubb

    Ron,

    Your winds always blow something worthwhile and needed my way, so please don’t try to shorten them to breezes. I’ve often found myself plagued by a desire for more and I had just about concluded that I’m just impossible to please. You’ve pointed out to me that perhaps I’m not uniquely dissatisfied, I just need to re-evaluate what I’m seeking to fill in the holes. That’s not as daunting as the fear that, when I get what I’ve been wanting, no matter what it is, it’s not going to do for me what I’d hoped it would.

    Easton, as I’ve found myself saying a bit repetitively over the last few days that, my knee-jerk response to these things is always, “Wow, this is so ironic.” But truly, there is no irony, just proof that God is always here supplying our needs.

    Stacy

  8. Chris R

    Stephen, that is my favorite part of “On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness” too. And Ron, every time I read that verse in Isaiah, I hear my mentor from high school reading it in his slow, deep, deliberate voice and I get that feeling, again, the ache for something more. Recently, when I heard the Switchfoot song “This Is Home” from the Narnia soundtrack, I felt it quite deeply and was talking to a friend about it. He asked, “Was that about the time you were coming home (from 10 months in Italy)” and I was surprised. It was, but it had nothing to do with coming from from Italy, and everything to do with the hope to one day come to my real home. To live out Hebrews 11 (the middle of the chapter). Thanks for sharing. (for more complete thoughts on this, feel free to check out my blog post on it at http://c-ruleinrome.blogspot.com/2008/05/this-is-home.html)

  9. becky

    It’s strange, isn’t it, how we human beings are all so different while being so much the same. No matter how much or how little we have, there is just something in all of us that needs more than this life can ever give us.

    My favorite Bible passage is Psalm 103, and the verse that seems to me to apply here says, “He satisfies my desires with good things, so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Everything else I pursue to try and satisfy my desires falls short of the mark. It just leaves me wanting more. And ultimately makes me feel old, withered, and used up. God alone can really fill up that empty place in me so that I don’t need anything else. Only the things he gives make me feel young, vibrant, and alive again.

  10. josh

    “I can see in the strip malls and the phone calls, the flaming sword of Eden, in the fast cash and the news flash and the horn blast of war, in the sin-fraught cities of the dying and the dead like steel-wrought graveyards where the wicked never rest, to the high and lonely mountain in the groaning wilderness, we ache for what is lost as we wait for the Holy God”. –Andrew Peterson.

    Yes, yes indeed. There are a precious few things these days that cut through my cynicism, but the recurring realization that things like cynicsm only exist because this world is not able to satisfy just absolutely lays waste to my thick skin. And it’s in songs like AP’s “The Far Country” that this realization comes in the most powerful way.

    The realization that all my wants and desires were designed to be met only when I get home fills me with an inexplicable joy. The kind of joy that is only possible because of the knowledge that all of the pain and suffering and death this world can dish out is pales to insignificance in light of the great fulfillment awaiting us at the end of our time here. It reminds me of Gandalf’s speech in The Return of the King: “End? no the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path… One that we all must take. The grey rain cutrain of this world rolls back and all turns to silver glass, then you see it… White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise”. And that isn’t so bad at all.

    I’m glad this world is just the far country, not my home.

  11. Michael Anthony Curan

    Would somebody here make than Andrew Peterson novel into a movie??? i can already imagine Peter Jackson doing it…

  12. David R.

    The first thing I thought of after reading this post was C.S. Lewis’s chapter on “Heaven” in The Problem of Pain. Here’s my favorite excerpt:

    “There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven, but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else. You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that. Again, you have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life; and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw – but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realize that this landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you are transported. […] All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been hints of it – tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest – if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself – you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say “Here at last is the thing I was made for.” We cannot tell each other about it. it is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all.”

    It is somehow both freeing and challenging to remember that my deepest longings were not meant to be fully and permanently satisfied by temporal things. I am freed from expecting to feel perfectly happy and complete all the time, and freed from expecting any one human relationship or circumstance to be my ultimate satisfaction. It’s kind of unfortunate how often I find myself putting my hope in lesser things, even as a Christian who knows God is the only One who can and will deliver on His promises to satisfy me.

    And though permanently tangible peace and fulfillment was never promised us in this life, I am thankful that verses like Ps. 37:4 (“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart”) aren’t only talking about heaven. His mercies are new every morning. God is slowly teaching me that he wants to satisfy me with Himself, now, today. Pushing past the normal pain or doubt or loneliness to choose to delight myself in the Lord is never easy, but when (by His grace alone) I do, I find myself overwhelmed by who He is and by how good He has already been to me.

    ..they who seek the Lord will praise him. (Ps. 22:26)

    The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble. (Prov. 19.23)

  13. Peter B

    “Why, if there’s nothing for the ache?”

    Exactly. I felt that way just this past Sunday, leaving an evening with a group of friends. It reminded me yet again of the liner notes in Love and Thunder, which express this same longing; He is with us now, but are not with Him yet.

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