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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

As the Ruin Falls

As the Ruin Falls


All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I have never had a selfless though since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through;
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love -- a scholar's parrot may talk Greek--
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.

Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.

For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.

-C.S. LEWIS


This is one of my all-time favorite poems.
I believe it was mostly about his wife, Joy, who he married later in life and who died soon after they were married of cancer. However, I think it's a perfect picture of our self-seeking behavior, and God's power to bring good out of our state.

To start out with "all this flashy rhetoric about loving you..." It's easy to say that you love God. It's a heck of a lot harder to actually do so. The Bible points to the truth that loving God is loving people. You can't love God and hate His creation. You can't pray on Sundays but live in hate for the rest of the week and call it good. It's really, really, really hard to love people where they are, which means it's really, really, really hard to truly love God in spirit and in truth. It's so easy to be thankful to God in the good times and so difficult to praise God in the hard times.

"Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love -- a scholar's parrot may talk Greek--
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin."

I think one of the things that's so great (in some ways) about the gospel is how good it makes you feel. "I am loved!! I have a purpose!!" At the same time, it's easy to relish those feelings of love, acceptance, and peace. Those feelings can take over God's place in our hearts to the point where we really start to care about feeling righteous and pure and holy, and we stop caring about who God really is, and how righteous and pure and holy He is; yet he still loves every single one of us. It's easy to be "us vs. them" and think we're in the right. It can feel next to impossible to "crawl one inch outside my proper skin" and try to be Christ to a hurting world. By being Christ I do not mean condemning people but lifting them up and feeding them words of love and peace and truth. And even if we do not feel love in our hearts, it still means helping and serving those around us. But if I talk of love and God only because they serve my turn and make me feel good, I truly am imprisoned in this addiction of self-fulfilling religion that has nothing to do with TRUE religion, which James describes as,"Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." To me this reads that true religion is not only seen by its outward signs but by a willingness to live FOR other people, and in service of them.

"Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking."

To me this verse represents several different truths. First of all, I think it's very sad but also satisfying to walk away from a life of mistakes and sin and realize the abundant life you have been missing. It's also difficult to see people go down a path that you know leads to unhappiness in the end. When we've come back from exile and we feel God's love, it's incredibly fulfilling but it comes with a certain sadness when you realize that many people just never look hard enough to feel that all-encompassing love.

The author writes "and now the bridge is breaking" and I believe this means that his wife is passing, and she gave him the strength to really live outside himself and search for truth. He feels the pain and the sorrow and it's almost consuming him. He's almost gone. He's so close to despair that he isn't sure he can still feel that love. But then...

"For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains."

The ruin is us. Like the ruins of an ancient building, these are the remnants of a past, the structure of a person or a place. And when all is said and done, the ruin falls, but God is still there. All is not lost. It's like the end of the Neverending Story (I realize how ridiculous that just sounded) when Bastian things that the Nothing has taken over all of Fantasia, and that the name he chose for the Childlike Empress wasn't good enough to save her and the whole land... then the Empress tells him that the Nothing consumed all of Fantasia, save one single grain of sand. The ruin has fallen but there is still hope left. The reality can grow from that single grain of sand; the smallest hint of hope can restore a soul. If you have faith the size of a mustard seed....

The pains we experience in life can draw us closer to God if we are strong enough to realize that this is not the end of the story. God is still left, and he will create an entirely new reality if we let Him.


LET THE RUIN FALL.

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