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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Melancholy Moment - Written from a Former Office

I’m in my office on an autumn Monday. Outside the seasons go round and round. Despite my stuckness inside, God gives me joy looking through a window to His world out there. And I take moments to soak it in. As I kick back in my chair, a window pane neatly frames one tree, one visually noisy maple tree across the parking lot. Thankfully, due to my angle of view, I can see neither the parking lot nor the cars. It is as if they are not even there. The morning sun shining from behind me spotlights the tree. For a blessed moment, the tree is my entire world.

By what grace do I get to sit here and fill my sight with all shades of orange? I don’t know the names for the different ways orange looks, and I am not really interested in a taxonomy of color. But the effect of all the almost-red to almost-yellow, mixed up and curled around together in patterns no one would have thought of—the effect is joy for me. By what love do I get to feel this fullness?

But why do joy and sadness feel so much alike? I had a dream last night I can’t remember. For some reason in the dream, I wept and moaned with sadness. Then I awoke, and felt no sadness at all, yet I remembered feeling that way in the dream, even though I don’t know why I did. The joy I feel before this tree reminds me of the sadness I felt in the dream. Every few seconds, a leaf falls almost straight down in the still air. In the petiole of the leaf, right where it joins the stem, the cells commit suicide, and the leaf breaks off. One falls, then another, then another, and then they're gone. No more orange. No more blast of morning color to greet me as I open my office door and settle into my chair.

This beauty like all beauty does not last. Soon I will see through the trunks and branches to the road and have to watch cars. I’ve never had joy over watching a car. Stop falling leaves! Don’t go away, swathes of orange! Don’t grow up, children! Don’t move away, friend! Oh that I could freeze-frame the moment! No wonder joy and sadness go together.

Once, when I was younger, I had no place to hang my happiness, no place to beam my joy, no place to pour my sadness. I was alone in the universe. We were all alone in the universe. And then I knew I wasn’t alone after all. There was One who brooded over this bent world. Before I didn’t know what to do with all the joys that rose up within me. Maybe if I studied and dissected and taxonomized my joy would be complete. Then I learned simply to say, “Thank you.” It made all the difference.

I sat beside the creek at English L’Abri and I wept, and laughed, and finally knew that the sadness and joy would find fulfillment one day. I sang a few hymn lines that came to mind. Soon all would be right, and creation would no longer groan, nor would I groan with it and have dreams of sadness. No more by its rhythms and changes and fading beauties would creation stir up longings for wholeness and completeness and permanency. Is that what it does? Does the longing of creation in fact mirror our own longings?

I think when I sit by a tree in the New Earth I will have only joy. But will there not still be seasons, and fadings, and leafings, and disappearings? Will the New Earth be tilted on its axis? It’s hard to imagine life without changes. But it’s hard for me to imagine changes without sorrows. Will the fleeting color of the tree, which now signals shorter days and a kind of dying, then no longer cause a pang of emptiness along with the well spring of joy? I can’t imagine that such feelings will be allowed, will be possible, in the New Earth and New Heaven. Yet today, looking out my window, I can’t imagine not feeling the pang with the pleasure. Will the Lord’s light, by which it says we shall see, somehow bend and change, grow and fade, to make seasons? I hope so. Will diversity and richness end? I think not. As to how it will work, as to how there will be changing and diversity and leafing and unleafing I do not know. But I look forward to seeing. Somehow, however it works, all will be good and whole and full and complete. There will be no more groaning of creation. There will be no more sadness in dreams. There will be no more tears. Joy without sadness. Joy unmixed. It awaits.