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I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)
Raise your hand if you’re old enough to remember Bruce Springsteen’s song “Glory Days.”
Glory days, well they’ll pass you by
Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days
Now that I have two boys playing high school soccer, I find myself more nostalgic than ever before about my own high school days. More specifically, I think about my senior year, when after many long years I was finally the big man on campus, so to speak, the star athlete, with all the underclassmen looking up at me.
Lately, I have found myself wondering why nostalgia has such a strong appeal, why we so often find ourselves longing for days in the past. In my case, I believe that there was a certain glory I experienced that still holds its attraction for me. At least in my memory, I was the object of praise and adoration in a way that made me feel important, special, and loved.
In order to make sense of the concept of glory, I read C.S. Lewis’ address, “The Weight of Glory” today. At only 15 pages, it may not take long to read, but it is profound in its treatment of the idea of glory, and why the Biblical authors speak of glory so often when talking about our future heavenly existence. Lewis writes that glory is usually spoken of in two ways: first, in terms of fame, approval, or appreciation, and secondly as luminescence. At first, Lewis was turned off by both definitions: the first seemed competitive and egocentric, while the second seemed ridiculous; as he put it, “who wishes to become a kind of living electric light bulb?” But as he reflected upon Jesus’ words in his parable in Matthew 25:21, “well done, good and faithful servant,” he began to understand glory as the praise and accolades we will receive from God, not from others. He writes:
I suddenly remembered that no one can enter heaven except as a child; and nothing is so obvious in a child – not in a conceited child, but in a good child – as its great and undisguised pleasure in being praised…. That is enough to raise our thoughts to what may happen when the redeemed soul, beyond all hope and nearly beyond belief, learns at last that she has pleased Him whom she was created to please… The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God… it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.
And as for the second aspect of glory, the luminescence, he writes,
We want something else which can hardly be put into words – to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it… What would it be to taste at the fountainhead that stream of which even these lower reaches proves so intoxicating? Yet that, I believe, is what lies before us. The whole man is to drink joy from the fountain of joy.
Glory as fame, approval, and becoming one with beauty and joy. Which brings me back to my nostalgia for my senior year of high school. I realize that my longing for those days is not really a longing to be 18 again. I know that if I were to go back, I would find that the reality was not nearly as glorious as my memories have made it out to be. But my nostalgia wakes me up to the fact that I am longing for something, something glorious that my senior year was merely a shadow of. As Lewis puts it:
The books of the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things – the beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited.
Our feelings of nostalgia, our longings for better days, are a sign pointing us to something greater, to a place we have yet to visit, but in which we will spend eternity. As the writer of Ecclesiastes put it, “He has set eternity in our hearts” (3:11). And as Paul put it so eloquently, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Amen. No doubt those will be the real glory days.
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