We all wrestle with death. Its presence is around us constantly. It’s in us too. But three great revelations of God in the Old Testament tell us: (1) he is one; (2) he made us in his image, (3) and he seeks after us because he loves us. All three revelations bleed into the New Testament with Jesus who yells down death asking the rhetorical question, “Where is your sting?”
Lewis rightly says that none of us have met a mortal being, for we are all immortal, either on our way to heaven or falling into hell. It means that our soul is marked with an everlasting scent.
In A Year with C.S. Lewis, the April 20 excerpt is from The Screwtape Letters. Lewis brings immortality into focus through the demons’ study of God, their enemy, and his humans. “The truth is that the Enemy,” Screwtape says, “having oddly destined these mere animals to life in His own eternal world, has guarded them pretty effectively from the danger of feeling at home anywhere else.”
Think about it. Our life here is wrapped in what our life will be in the everlasting pageantry of God. He created us with a longing for eternity, and because of that, our everyday here on earth offers that entanglement.
Screwtape says that, “the mere face of a girl, the song of a bird, or the sight of the horizon,” all hearken to something beyond.
“So inveterate is their appetite for Heaven,” the demon says, “that our best method, at this stage, of attaching them to earth is to make them believe that earth can be turned into Heaven… by politics or eugenics or ‘science’ or psychology…” And when death arrives, call it “Maturity or Experience,” and not a conclusion to the curse that began in the garden. If we call it simply an experience, we ignore God’s larger narrative.
Lewis’s warning about the charms of earth echo the Epistle of John. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them” (I John 2:15). It’s that simple, though we all know it’s hard to live out. The late Rich Mullins said it well: “The stuff of earth competes for the allegiance, I owe only to the giver of all good things.”
The ever present challenge is to see God in our everyday lives and to value the good as a foretaste of glory divine. Then, when death comes, we know it’s the ending of God’s work through us on Earth and the beginning of his new work in Heaven.
It brings to mind Fanny Crosby’s great 1873 hymn, “Blessed Assurance.” (As you might know, Crosby, though blind, was one of the most beloved hymn writers with more than 8,000 songs.)
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long;
this is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long.
Perfect submission, perfect delight!
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
Perfect submission, all is at rest!
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with his goodness, lost in His love.