“‘There was a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of you are—as you used to call it in the Shadow-Lands—dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”
We recently finished reading through The Chronicles of Narnia with our kids, and we finished with the the seventh book, The Last Battle. In this book, the series filled with adventures, battles of good versus evil, and divine intervention from a “not tame” Lion ends with one final battle where all of Narnia is destroyed and then remade into a glorious paradise. The imagery is powerful, and C.S. Lewis’s description of the afterlife is rich.
As the book ends, Aslan the Lion tells the main characters that they have in fact died in “their world” and passed into the afterlife, and he describes it this way: “The [school] term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”
And the powerful final paragraph of the book goes like this:
“And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page; now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has ever read; which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.” (emphasis mine)
Aches and Groans
2020 has been a challenging year for most of us. We have experienced some combination of stress, anxiety, uncertainty about the future, being misunderstood, and loss, and that grind has left us with questions and wounds. It has been hard. In fact, all of life can be hard, and this struggle affects us deeply.
We ache and wish for it to get better, and sometimes it does. Other times it doesn’t. Even when things do get better or more pleasant, there are always difficult times ahead, and somehow we sense this, so our spirits still ache inside us.
This unfulfilled longing leaves us with a view of the world that is dark and heavy. The word the Bible uses for this in Romans 8 is groaning:
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8.22-23
The Dream is Ended: This is the Morning
But a day is coming, when we die or when Christ returns, when we will pass from this dark and broken place into something that is so much better, that it is not just better, it is altogether different. It will be so good, so rich, so powerfully permanent that this thing we call life, which seems so real and permanent, will feel like a dream we are waking up from.
Revelation 21.3-5 says:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
That is the eternal reality for those who belong to Jesus. On the dawning of that day, Jesus will say to his people, “The dream has ended; this is the morning.”
All the experiences we have had in life—good and bad—even in the longest of lives, will be just the cover and the title page of the Great Story we are in. Those decades of life and thousands of experiences and memories are but a brief and incomplete introduction to the Great Story that we will live in forever.
In that story, every chapter will be better than one before. One chapter will be so gloriously good and satisfying that we will think it could not possibly get any better, that it must be the pinnacle, where we will linger and be satisfied forever. But then the next chapter will satisfy us in a way we never could have imagined, just like the previous chapter was unbelievably more glorious than the one before it. And we will pass from chapter to chapter to chapter for infinite days, each chapter better than the one before it. The school term will be over. The work year will be over. The deployment will end. The holidays will have begun, for infinite days with no going back.
From Longing to Glory
Suffering, hardship, affliction, pain, death, loss—they all make us ache for something to be changed, to be made right. For the people of Jesus, that ache is for the full and final and eternal redemption that is coming when Jesus comes, and that longing is what Advent is all about.
The turmoil of 2020 can’t take that away from us. If anything, it serves us because the stronger the darkness, the stronger our longing for the dawn. The stronger our longing for Jesus. And no matter how great our longing is, the presence of Jesus and the glory that is to be revealed will so far surpass what was, it won’t even be worth the time to stop and compare.
So…long with hope, church! One day we will finally be past the cover, and chapter one of the Great Story with Jesus will begin. Come Lord Jesus.