My wife, Janis, who is a musician, was privileged recently to be invited to perform three of her original songs on local television. Our little grandson Kalib, who is two months shy of three years old, loves watching his "Mimi" play music, so his folks got him up at 8AM that morning, in time to watch Mimi on TV.
Janis and two of her band, Mike Williams (bass) and Reed Davis (guitar), did their usual great job on all three songs, which were interspersed between features during the station's early morning news show. The show's host could not have been more gracious and complimentary to them and at the end he asked Janis and gang to play out the show.
Kalib, back at his house, had been glued to the TV the whole time since his Mimi had caught his eye earlier in the hour. Even at his age, he had understood each previous time when Mimi's songs ended that she would be back to sing another one in a few minutes. So it didn't slip past him when Mimi started her third song, that that would be the last one. But apparently the realization didn't hit him fully, until the last chords of the song had been played and the music had faded out into commercial, that MIMI WASN'T COMING BACK!
And that was it. In a split second, his mother Abby recounted later, he went from the highest heights of joy and fun, clapping and dancing with Mimi on TV, to the lowest, saddest, deepest depths of ultimate despair. His eyes welled with tears as he realized, "no more Mimi on TV," and he began his plaintive obsessive crying DEMAND that Mimi come back and play more! He could not be consoled, and nothing could make him give up his disappointment, and he was still sniffling and trembling somewhat when he talked to Mimi by phone nearly two hours later.
And so it goes with all of us. As we grow up we learn to accept something unconsciously -- "everything is fleeting and every pleasure is transitory, get used to it!" -- that we may not articulate but we all get it that you can't (or at least aren't supposed to) fall apart when the fun is over. Over and over in childhood, "fun" is interrupted, by Mom calling us for dinner, by our homework, by summer being over and coming home from vacation, and the mundane begins again.
They always told the story in Janis' family of her having to be dragged, literally kicking and screaming, out of the fair when the fairgrounds closed at midnight, screaming, "Wanna stay at fair! Wanna stay at fair!" Who can blame her, though? There's the fun right there, all lit up in lights -- why do we have to stop and go home?
But that's life, isn't it? Children don't understand all the nuts and bolts about life, that unfortunately we do all too well as adults. Things like, we're tired and need sleep, things cost money and money costs money, the fair people have to get off work and want to close up, and just the plain fact that you just can't have fun all the time. Just can't. Don't know exactly why, but it's just that way around these parts.
Of course, it is exactly this fleeting quality about life, that we realize more and more as we grow older (how quick the whole thing is), that works its work in us in order that we might be driven to find something to hold to that remains after everything has passed away.
Realizing, of course, that things "passing away" isn't something in the future, or only meaning someone's physical death, but "passing way" as I am meaning it is a continuous event, since every moment both life is springing mysteriously out of the invisible into the present moment and then back into the invisible. The picture of what we see is continuously moving and shifting, being instantly transitory, and we are given a real gift to be conscious of this continuous change and movement and to apprehend and live in it as our present moment reality.
But we are also given another gift, out of the treasures of Christ in us, and that gift is an inner consciousness of a nonmoving, non-shifting Life within, fully "fixed" in us as the Eternal, Rock of Ages, Ancient of Days, Source, Life, He-Who-Causes-To-Be. "I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward," says the Living God to Abraham and all his seed, and the consideration of this promise and He Who says it billows over us as a shining cloud transfiguring the mountain we stand on. We are bathed in God and glow in His light. "I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward!"
However, this gift of seeing into the eternal and of knowing who we are in the realm of the Spirit, does not cancel out nor nullify the other gift we have been given -- the gift of being conscious of and living in this current moment in this world. And inherent in living in that consciousness is knowing the transitory nature of it, which means we are never able to grasp and hold onto any sense of rest, security, or the fulness of love in ANYTHING we can sense, experience, or know in this world or through anyone or anything in it. We are living in the world; we are experiencing it; we are pulled apart by its waves and motions; we are feeling and knowing all of its desires. Every moment the press of the Spirit is on us that we might be other-lovers in the world and every moment the transitory nature of the world is upon our daily minds and our love never seems enough. Whatever we might do to love, to give of ourselves, has a sense of incompleteness to it, since no gesture, no word, no gift, nothing we have, nothing we could do, can love enough, give enough, be enough, to be the fulfillment and hope of another person. We cannot even satisfy ourselves and we feel continuously deficient to be able to satisfy anyone else.
Now I find when I consider both of these realities which exist concurrently within me -- the Eternal God Who is steadfastly the unfailing ever Sufficiency within me, He Who never slumbers nor sleeps, and then the fleeting world and all that happens in it which never seems to finally resolve or find fulfillment -- it is not uncommon that a little shoving match might occur inside me for awhile, one reality expressing its rightful primacy over the other, like a cold front hitting a warm front in the Ohio Valley. And it seems that this is the continuous tension in human life, i.e. all the "dualities" we live in -- flesh & spirit, earth & heaven, God and man, tangible and intangible, body and soul/spirit, etc.
What is happening in our midst is a constant demonstration of this tension as a parable in everything in life, so that in one consideration of the parable there is the invisible yet evident unfailing cruse of oil, present in everything and outpouring out of everything, and in the other consideration of the parable there is the visible and equally evident "event" -- a thought, word or deed, need or situation, by oneself or some others -- and the event groans and presents a case with evidence that all is not yet complete and there is yet sadness and there are still tears. Now to this of course the eternal can only be drawn to cover it with itself, as a mother bird its chicks, which it does, so that God is continuously comfort day by day, and yet the same tension continues and speaks the same parable every day.
Let me plainly say the parable. Both realities (eternal and temporal) are meant to exist concurrently, and are meant to be in tension. To walk in Christ or to walk in the Spirit is to walk in the tension concurrently in both realities which are both true and both manifest. By our lives we live in the truth in each, expressing eternal life in transitory life. The eternal is certainly the "greater" truth and reality without measure, but that still does not nullify nor make the temporal "now" less true or less significant or lacking in any sense. Our lives jam-pack the temporal with the eternal and fill it up and give it life and meaning.
Let us remember, it is out of US that rivers of living waters shall flow. That means that we bring eternal life (love of God, joy of God, hope of God, faith of God, God Himself) into temporal life, which is all that we live in and experience from morning til night and all through the night, too. All that struggle, strife, and strain. Whatever. Piano recitals. Tours of duty. A job. A funeral. A vacation. Wherever He takes us, there is His life flowing out of us in that river.
But part of that "tension," of course, is that what I described in the previous paragraph, is not something that we can see, prove or conclusively "know" by any measurable standard. It's a nice idea, sort of romantic in a way as some sort of flight of fancy, but certainly not a thought that should be entertained by anyone with any sense. How could such as we be the bearer of this water that would fill the temporal with the eternal? Nonsense!
And just here is where the battle is always joined. We might agree with the idea, but in the trenches when the going gets rough can we say that the "idea" is not an idea, but an operative reality happening in me? I can say "God is mighty," clap my hands, jump and sing, but it has no operative meaning in me unless I also say, "God is mighty in me!"
And of course we do say, because the "mystery" is always operative. Never being separate from Him for the least moment, He declares Himself mighty in us by our own mouths and hearts.
So there will be more tears for a time. Time still contrains us and here we have no continuing city. But that isn't to make us sad or even to long too much for that Day. There is always an undercurrent within of knowing we are of a glory beyond which we will one day see in full, but it is rightfully mostly hidden from us while we live in the joys everyday which testify of the love and grace of God and which are abundant in every moment in everything and ongoing in every here and now.
"Whom have I in heaven but thee, O Lord, and there is none upon earth I desire beside thee!"