And then one day it all goes black.
All the stories you’ve held in your chest are released to fly into the night. It’s like waking up from a long sleep, but instead of morning grog, you are met with stunning clarity.
It’s like you’ve been living your whole life under the cover of a shadow and the canopy has been removed. People living in darkness have seen a great light.
We really can’t comprehend it. We really can’t know what to possibly expect. You awake to glory or oblivion, but either way, it’s more real than the addictive fever dreams we’ve endured down here.
Down where it’s gray.
Down where there’s fog and haze. My soul shudders at the thought of the light. At the thought of this far country to whose shores we will one day drift.
I have come to grasp the meaning in the myriad songs that talk about living life as if through the thick filter of a dream state, and longing to wake up into reality. To shake the rote haze from my bones and stir them to vivid life.
Because one day this will all end and we will meet the Light. We will encounter this ferocious flame face to face and all the unsecured flotsam and jetsam will burn away. All the fantasies which never came true; all our aches for eudaimonia which were lost in our respective translations of the world will no more haunt our memories than an ant I killed when I was young.
I want life like that day in Las Vegas: We were in a suburban neighborhood outside the city and found a couch on the side of the street. In front of a house. So we sat on it. We posed on it. We played and felt alive.
Today I drove by 4 couches in my own neighborhood and was not amused.
It’s not the object, it’s how you see it. The couch in Nevada was exciting because we were on a road trip and everything is exciting. The couches I saw today are not exciting because I’m driving familiar streets. I’m trapped in an excruciating routine I can’t shake from my bones and I’ve never felt more asleep.
Another time we were in Brasil and had made it to Rio. A week of backpacking along the coast had landed us at our destination. Every bus we boarded and ride we hitched; every ferry we awaited from the docks and every hostel we crashed had led to this one location. Our hostel had an antique shop in the basement and a window overlooking the Copacabana. I saw more than a couple beautiful Brasilian women pass by.
I was alive. I was awake. I was alert to the moment and the location I was in, and that was enough for me. I wasn’t trapped in the mundanity of routine and dying for an escape to come and lift me from the dream.
But I ask myself: Is this a dream from which there is waking, or does it dissolve with the morning light, along with the rest of my understood reality? Does the Christ come and remove it from me as well, or does He come to breathe into me the fullness of reality itself?
We Christians do not long for a dream from afar: we encounter reality firsthand. In the communion table we are not told to “stand by and watch,” but to “come and eat.”
Our dreams are realized in the body and the blood.
Our dreams took on flesh 2k years ago and gave Himself to us and for us.
You know how there are those passages in certain books which make your arm hairs stand up and cool shivers run from your neck down to your tailbone? There are a lot of those lines in my all-time favorite book, Lewis’ The Great Divorce, but one rings true in our context.
“Hell is a state of mind – ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind – is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.”
Those who desire things other than Christ are left asleep while the rest wake into fitful life. Life more real and more near to the individual than can be comprehended in this life—in this state of stupor and guessing.
Now we see as through a glass darkly, but soon we will know in full.
Soon we will be like Moses, who saw God face-to-face on the mountaintop and there will be no more speculation about this god or that. There will be no more epistemological disagreement about the proper way to know.
Because we will not only know, we will see. We will touch. We will run and breathe in the fullness of Life itself; Life Himself.
I—the eternal bachelor—have realized this many times. I can close my eyes and dream all I want while alone in my house, but imagining another person there with me isn’t remotely on the same plane as being in the presence of another human being. If you haven’t done this before, here’s a little experiment: Sit by yourself for ten minutes and just imagine scenarios happening with you and other people as if they were there with you.
Then go hang out with other people and see how vastly different it is.
The difference between dream and reality.
In some ways, many of us are living in a dream world right now, yet think we’re awake.
Many of us think that our breathing means we’re alive.
Someone once posited to me that when it comes to theological definitions, life and death is a matter of relationship. Those who are alive are those who are known by God. Those who are dead are those to whom He says, well,
“You’re dead to me.”
So, in asking someone ‘Are you alive?’ I may really be asking them, ‘Do you know Jesus? Do you know The Life?’
And I hope you do, my friend. I hope you know Him and are known by Him, that you may come fully alive.