Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Checkered Life

The Cat in the Hat was the first book I fell in love with, the first book I memorized before I could read. It has held a special place in my heart ever since. I shared it with my siblings before they learned to read, and I expect I will read it to my children if God blesses me with a family. But I find that the longer I live, the more I envy "Sally and I" in the story. The Cat put those two children through quite a bit, with his wild games and the antics of Thing One and Thing Two. By the end of it all, the house was in shambles. And I often react much more like the fish than the children when things in my life get turned upside down. Even the fish was lucky, though. The Cat came in with his "clean-up machine" and put everything right in a matter of minutes. It was as if he hadn't been there at all. The children's mother never knew any different.

Real life isn't like that. When something goes wrong, when we sin, when we are hurt by other's sin, when circumstances beyond our control sap time and resources and energy, there is not a magic "clean-up machine," no rewind button. This angers me, because I can't seem to give up the idea that everything can be fixed if only we try hard enough. I want to "make it better," to stop the hurt I see wearing on myself and those I love. But, there are things I will never be able to fix. 

What then? Do we despair? Today I came across a quote from Charles Dickens, a favorite author of mine, that I think provides interesting insight into trials, regret, and life that is never what we think it will be.
"To remember happiness which cannot be restored, is pain, but of a softened kind. Our recollections are unfortunately mingled with much that we deplore, and with many actions which we bitterly repent; still in the most chequered life I firmly think there are so many little rays of sunshine to look back upon...and memory, however sad, is the best and purest link between this world and a better."
This is taken from Nicholas Nickleby, a book I only started reading, but I know the story. It is spoken between travelers on a journey, just before the title character's life will take a turn that he hardly expected. It will all come out alright in the end, but there will be trials and tragedy before that point. In a way, this quote captures the theme of the book.

It captures life pretty well, too. Life is a strange blend of joy and pain. The two are often inseparable. And the lost joys we recall, the unfulfilled hopes, the sins and regrets, the irreparable parts of life, serve to remind us that our entire world is irreparable. So damaged is this world, that God will one day exchange it for a new one. We were once irreparable. Until Christ fixed what we could not. He renewed us, though we were decrepit and dead. Without him, we would indeed despair. 

There is something better coming, and this perishable world reminds us that we were made for an imperishable one.

Dickens is not a Christian author, though his work often expresses Christian themes. His sentiment made me think of this Sovereign Grace hymn.

"The sun beams on behind the clouds
"And in the dark still grace abounds
"All is well because of God's great love
"The road of disappointment runs
"Where unseen mercies wait for us
"And all is well because of God's great love."

Think of a checkered hillside in the interplay of light and shadow on a cloudy day. When we walk that hillside, we are sometimes in the shadow and sometimes in the light, but God is with us all the way. It is God's love makes this life liveable. 

I often cannot fix, but I can hope. I can remember the joys that I had for a little while. I can thank God for the joys that I have now. And I can wait for the day when nothing will mar the joy of seeing my Savior's face.

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