I assume that you are using Narnia as an example of dreaming of the kingdom....Well... yes and no. I mean, yes, obviously. I dream of the kingdom: it’s a dream that fills my days, “a dream that will take all the love you can give” as the Reverend Mother sings in The Sound of Music. And, yes, Narnia is a picture of the kingdom, in a way: a place of beauty and magic and – Aslan.
And yet, no. I was dreaming of Narnia! As we drove along the M1 that morning, I glanced out at a beautiful belt of pine trees and my heart yearned. Have you ever felt that strange longing, that aching desire inside for beauty, for peace, for adventure, for something somehow magical. Well that’s how I felt.
CS Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia calls this yearning feeling “joy”. This may sound odd – we tend to think of joy as a kind of extreme happiness. But he meant the longing within us, the hunger for the eternal. “God has put eternity in the hearts of men” it says in the book of Ecclesiastes.
Or as another author, GK Chesterton put it more bluntly:
Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.
Sounds outrageous? What Chesterton meant is that we all have a desire within us: Lewis’s “joy”, the Bible’s “eternity in our hearts”, the Reverend Mother’s “dream that will take all the love we can give”. We may look in all the wrong places – like a brothel, for instance – to quench that desire. (Desire can certainly “give birth to sin” (James 1:15), but that is a perversion, a twisting of its proper purpose.) Yet the longing remains, panting and pointing to something. To something or Someone we desperately want.
And that’s where the kingdom comes in. We’re really hungry for God and for Zion whether or not we quite know it.
One day Christians will receive the kingdom in all its fullness, though I’m inclined to believe that even when we see God “face to face” we will still forever journey deeper into Him together.
In the meantime, we “know in part”. We glimpse the kingdom through worship, through brotherhood in community, through the shared mission of church.
And I dare to say that things which stir our desire for eternal beauty can be helpful in this. I’m not advocating visiting brothels or some kind of existential selfishness. But that doesn't mean that wholesome things which stir our imagination and cause our hearts to yearn, cannot help us on our way to God.
I’ve written a lot (again). But I don’t think I’ve said all that can be said on this one. Far from it. So maybe I’ll do a part two some time... In the meantime, I’ll let Lewis have the final word:
All joy...emphasizes our pilgrim status; always reminds, beckons, awakens desire. Our best havings are wantings.