Friday, July 3, 2009

from the archives: a day of small idols

Here's a gift to any blogger: an overheard conversation. This one, between two mums in the playground, highlights the absurdity of devoting your life to anything other than God.

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).


No comments: