Mud pies in the slums: The Wait of Glory

C.S. Lewis was wrong, I reckon.

In The Weight of Glory he famously says that we satisfy ourselves making mud pies in the slums because we don’t know how good it is to build sandcastles at the beach.

WRONG.

I’ve built sandcastles at the beach. I know what it’s like to sit in the sun and have the cacophony of holidaymakers filling your ears while the surf rolls in as you dig in the sand with your bucket and spade. The problem isn’t that I don’t know what glory is — the problem is that it doesn’t last. And because it doesn’t last, sooner or later you have to go back to the mud pies.

I’m sure C.S. Lewis knew this too. In fact, I’m certain of it. He couldn’t write what he did without having been given at least a glimpse of heaven. He had tasted glory, and also felt the bittersweet impact of its after-taste — that moment when the glory fades, or walks away, or draws to a close, like a curtain over the screen at the end of a movie that’s completely captivated you for two or more hours, firing the imagination, transporting you to other worlds … and then, what? Reality.

Having tasted glory, the joy of it, the hope of it, the sweetness of it, you’re suddenly left with its absence, the emptiness of the moment that’s come to an end.

‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for,’ sings Bono.

Why? Because he’s never tasted it? No — because he HAS tasted it.

‘I have spoke with the tongues of angels,’ he says. ‘I’ve held the hand of a devil … it was warm in the night.’

I’ve held the hand of the devil too. I’ve done more than that. And yes, it was warm. And I’ve spoken in tongues of angels. I’ve cried out to God at the point of my absolute lowest, several times over, and heard not just the echo of my own despair, but the dynamic response of … what? … Something, calling back to me, giving me reason and purpose and hope. Craziness? Sure. But it was real. I have no doubt.

BUT … I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

What do I want? I want the glory, but I don’t want it to end. I don’t just want the fruit either, I want the whole fucking orchard. If the moments that captivate us in this life are glimpses of something to come, then I’m tired of being teased, fed up of being taunted, done with having the hope dangled, even so far as allowing me to fully know its presence, to have zero misconceptions about what it is and why it is and where it’s coming from.

Faith, hope and love. Not three categories of theology, but three burning flames, which from time to time become consuming fires, raging within and without, breaking open this present life and giving me an unfiltered and unbroken view of the glorious beyond.

But it’s not enough. Lord, it’s not enough. Quit the games. Stop the teasing.

It turns out the most important prayer I ever uttered was, ‘I am nothing … if you can do something with nothing, go right ahead.’

That nothing became something … but I’ve discovered the something is fleeting, momentary, a between, a space, that can’t be held or possessed or controlled. It’s a wave on the street … it’s the flight of a passing bird … it’s a kiss on the cheek … it’s a hint, a whisper, a wink …

And it’s not enough.

C.S. Lewis knew it. He says so, in The Weight of Glory.

‘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.’

Hmm. I wish I was so sure.