BFO #1: Two-year-olds can be stubborn and irrational--that's my big BFO (blinding flash of the obvious) for the day. But it's a fair analogy to go along with one of C.S. Lewis's ideas contained in The Great Divorce, so try to bear with me.
There are days when my little boy is joy personified. There are others in which nothing I do will satisfy. He yells for one thing, then says he doesn't want it, then yells that he does if I put it back. I give him something that's good for him in the long run; he prefers whatever he wants right now, not understanding what he's really asking for. I give him love, affection, food, discipline, shelter, and bedtime stories. He wants the cordless drill, the eight-foot ladder, to spray Clorox in his face, and to stick his hand in the oven. In other words, he wants to be happy on his own terms, unable to realize that the things he wants sometimes are unlikely to bring anything but pain.
BFO #2: We are often like that. Certainly, more than once I've heard some very sincere, intelligent adults complain that "the God they know would never send people to Hell" simply because they don't believe in Jesus. The Christian notion of salvation and eternity is too narrow-minded. (My pastor would appreciate my reprise of that thought!)
And I'm reminded in those situations of one of the end scenes in Lewis's The Last Battle from the Narnia series. In that scene many of the dwarves sit in darkness in a filthy stable because they "won't be taken in." They're too smart for that.
They are, in reality, sitting amidst a beautiful, airy place of light and joy, but they will not see it, and so they go on experiencing misery because it's the only thing their intellects will allow to be real to them. The gift is laid on the table within their reach, so to speak, but unless they are willing to acknowledge the gift and open it, they will continue to complain about the bad place they're in and all its unfairness.
Enter The Great Divorce: The main character, a shadow, has arrived at the edge of Heaven and is talking to George MacDonald, one of the "solids."
"What some people say on Earth is that the final loss of one soul gives the lie to all the joy of those who are saved." (MC)
"Ye see it does not." (George MacDonald)
"I feel in a way that it ought to."
"That sounds very merciful, but see what lurks behind it."
"The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that until they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy . . . It must be one way or the other. Either the day must come when joy prevails and all the makers of misery are no longer able to infect it: or else for ever and ever the makers of misery can destroy in others the happiness they reject for themselves."
Yet we very often accept that "shadowy" reasoning, or at least the larger world does.
If I refused to eat my cookie for greater philosophical reasons, or just because I didn't want to add to the padding, it wouldn't stop my husband from eating his. Certainly, no one would think the worse of him for having that little pleasure. It is when the world comes up against Christianity that we find people insisting on that irrational conclusion. If the cook makes plenty of goodies for her company and they refuse to eat what's placed before them, is it her fault they go home hungry? Perhaps I should let my two-year-old run the house and stick his hand in the hot oven while we're at it. It makes about as much sense as blaming the cook.
Lisa Holloway is a Christian freelance writer, as well as a copy editor and writer for Inspiration Networks. She has served with the U.S. Navy and USAID/OFDA, and has studied in India. She recently wrote four stories for the compilation "Can My Marriage Be Saved?"
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