Be Careful

In The Weight of Glory, Lewis says we will be transformed in eternity, whether in Heaven (or Hell). “It’s a serious thing,” Lewis says, “to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship.” We’re all immortal, with a heartbeat that fails us physically on Earth, but one that carries on in eternity. It makes the “weight of glory” that much more settled on the Christian to act in costly ways for others, even though we will always feel unsettled by the notion given our selfishness.

Someone I know gets really upset when you start talking about eternity. Maybe we all do if we’re honest. We don’t know how to place it. It’s this vast space where time doesn’t rule, but rather God does, and everything gets bent in the light of that radiance. At present, we are driven to own our future and beat out the clock. We want to work hard and then be “taken care of” before we die. In our grander moments, we want to make a difference, but difficulty, anxiety, personal safety and financial expectations often drive a wedge into our charity. (And our compartmentalization of charity is a root problem in the dilemma as well.) The reality is, “All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations,” Lewis says. He continues:

It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.

I skipped to the end of The Weight of Glory, to the essay, “A Slip of the Tongue.” Here Lewis rightly talks about our hesitancy to cling to Jesus. “I say in my prayers,” he says, “I read a book of devotions, I prepare for, or receive the Sacrament. But while I do these things, there is, so to speak, a voice inside me that urges caution. It tells me to be careful, to keep my head, not to go too far, not to burn my boats. I come into the presence or God with a great fear lest anything should happen to me within that presence which will prove too intolerably inconvenient when I come out again into my ‘ordinary’ life.”

What would happen if we weren’t careful, if we burned our boats? What would happen if we loved our neighbors with costly love? What would happen if we devoted ourselves to God without reservation? Perhaps we’d begin to move mountains and dance like lilies and eat like birds. Perhaps our confidence and insecurity with time would be transformed in the light of his glory and grace.