The day feels like a dream. Soft blue sky with feathers of high cloud. Birds and peepers calling from the pond. The great ocean of fragrant air drifts lazily over greening fields, and sun falls softly on skin.
For months, we have been on guard, shoulders hunched under thick clothes, defending the warmth inside. But today, it seems, the long-rumored miracle has occurred. The wounding winter is in full retreat.
On the fringes of my vision, the world whizzes by. We ride the airplane like a bobsled, my student and I, he in the front seat, focused on his work. Ahead, I can see little, but to the side, there are shimmering silos, rivers ablaze with sunlight that glides alongside as we pass.
The student is very good, as young as I am old. Around and around we go, down to the runway and back into the sky.
The eerie perfection of this morning, the skill of the pilot, the quiet sense that nothing could go wrong on such a day – I defend against this, just as I defend against winter.
Life teaches us the danger of this feeling. Moments of happiness are soon eclipsed by new troubles, and the shock of this is, at first, almost too much to bear. Better to keep up your guard. Better to defend against sorrow, even in times of apparent peace. Better to never be surprised.
But there is something heartbreaking in this, the knowledge that we are never quite safe, doomed by our mortality to the same humiliating end.
If Earth is home, then we are homeless. Spring comes to melt the snow but not our sorrows. We catch a faint scent, a fleeting glimpse, a fading echo of unspeakable beauty, but we find no lasting peace and no real answer to the ache of our longing.
There is no summer for our souls.
I have not given much thought to heaven because I so wanted to find a home on Earth. It has taken me many years to realize that my wounds and my longings are not unique and not the result of circumstances I might somehow change.
For me and for you, however strong or rich, however sick or poor, life will often be cold and lonely and dangerous. Our bodies, however elegant, do not last. Our families and friendships and communities are flawed in painful ways, and we have done our part to make them so.
We still haven’t found what we’re looking for because it is not here.
The offer of heaven is many things, among them proof that our souls are telling the truth. We feel homeless on Earth because Earth is not our home. We were made for a better country, made to be the kind of people who could learn to live in that country.
My own learning is very slow, but on this eerily perfect day, the fragrant air alive with birdsong, I remember who sends the spring – the dazzling One who whispers that he can heal me as surely as he heals the Earth.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on Earth… They were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence…
…The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret.
…At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.
C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory