Friday, June 13, 2008

a day of small idols

It's my island bench! I've always wanted one! It's mine. Mine!

The new kitchen goes nearly the whole length of the house. There was this little deck, you see, and it was always hot because the sun shone straight on it. So we filled it in and made this huge kitchen. With room for my island bench.

It's my island bench! I've always wanted one. It cost a lot, that island bench.

My mother-in-law wanted to make gnocchi on it. Gnocchi! Can you believe that? You know, the potato has to be really hot. Then you make those little things, then they dry and you have to scrape them off the bench. Scrape them!!! Off my bench! I don't think so. I'm not letting anyone make gnocchi on my island bench.

It's my island bench. I'm not making biscuits on there! It cost a lot, my island bench.

Listener: So what surface does it have?

It's laminate. But really good laminate, y'know? Like if you saw it, it's really good laminate.

It's my island bench. Mine, I tell you! I've always wanted one! It's mine.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I was standing near a group of school mums, waiting for our kids to come out of school, when I overheard this one-sided conversation. It reminded me vividly of the woman clinging forever to a smothering love for her son:

No one has the right to come between me and my son. Not even God. Tell Him that to his face. I want my boy, and I mean to have him. He is mine, do you understand? Mine, mine, mine for ever and ever.

This woman is one of the empty souls in C.S.Lewis' The Great Divorce, going into eternity holding desperately to the one thing they can't give up. Endlessly tormented by an attachment they hate but fear to lose. Dwindling to a soul that is "nearly nothing ... shrunk, shut up in itself." Like the grumbler who becomes a grumble:

"The question is whether she is a grumbler, or only a grumble ."

"But how can there be a grumble without a grumbler?"

"It begins with a grumbling mood, and yourself still distinct from it: perhaps criticising it. And yourself, in a dark hour, may will that mood, embrace it. Ye can repent and come out of it again. But there may come a day when you can do that no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticise the mood, nor even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself going on forever like a machine."

Have we become so small that our hearts can be won by a plasma television or an island bench? With souls made for the worship of the infinite God, will we give them instead to the worship of a secure nest-egg, an attitude of bitterness, or a nice house in a good suburb? Have we become so small, so nearly nothing?

What will we cling to, screaming that we can't let go, as we are dragged into eternity?

How much better to give up the small joys of this world for an infinite and everlasting joy. To spend eternity endlessly satisfied by the only One who can fulfil every desire of every corner of our hearts. With Jesus, who fills us with "joy in his presence, with eternal pleasures at his right hand" (Ps. 16:11).


mattnbec said...

Yet another great observation, Jean. Thank you. Reminds me of another CS Lewis quote we used to have in our study. It's from "The Weight of Glory"

"We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."


Jean said...

One of my absolute favourite quotes! Thanks for reminding me of it - you're right, it's saying much the same thing. I used to have it on my fridge and read it every day!

mattnbec said...

CS Lewis has great imagery, doesn't he?! Another one with some good imagery and is along these same lines idol-wise is Jer 2:13, which says:

"My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water."

I used to find it helpful to 'tell' particular material things which I was yearning after (eg nicer furniture, the mansion I admired every time I drove past it etc) that they were "broken cisterns that held no water". I'm sure I looked strange yelling at a house every time I drove past it though!

Jean said...

I might try that!