Love him or hate him, you can quote him. CS Lewis said some stuff. He, as a dead man, has more twitter followers than most of us will ever dream of having (if, you know, you are the type who dreams up such things. I hope, for your sake, you are not.). One of his best quotes speaks about mankind being “half-hearted.” He says that we fool about with drink, and sex, and food, like a kid who plays with mud in the hood over the opportunity to go and hang out at the beach. It is a great quote because it sort of hits you in the soul. Like, I’ve felt sort of an emptiness with life before. I’ve felt that, even when I’m killing it in certain areas, like life is just sort of hollow. Really, is this it, Life?
But then Jesus comes along and says, “You feel that emptiness? Well, I came to fill it. In me you can have life abundantly. In me you can get a glimpse of that ocean, and feel its breezes on your face.”
And, you know, I’ve felt that too. I’ve felt this sort of freedom when I really trust that Jesus was who He says He was and did what He is claimed to have done. I still long for drink, and sex, and food—the “pleasures” of this life—but they no longer leave me feeling empty, dirty, or groaning for more. It is almost like I see them for what they are, what they are meant to be, and so they can be enjoyed or abandoned properly.
When this happens it is like the eternal perspective breaks through the silly mundane of my life. I don’t get the whole eternal yet—I will someday—but these glimpses, man, they are simple and profound and beautiful.
This actually happened just the other night on an existential trip to Arby’s. My wife, bless her, hates fast food, but she married me, an absolute fast food fiend. So marital compromise entered the picture and it looks like this: I don’t really eat fast food anymore. Except. Beautiful word, right? Except! Except every now and then she’ll say something like, “I don’t feel like thinking through dinner. You good with just going and grabbing something for yourself?”
Am I good with it? It is like the fireworks bursting in air to the Hallelujah Chorus as I drive off to Taco Bell or McDonald’s or some such terrible, wonderful eatery. And on Friday night, I was thinking Arby’s.
I was pumped about it till I wasn’t—just like anything we sort of long for. We long and we long and we long, and then we get the longed for thing and are left with that, “Oh, it isn’t that great” feeling. That was me pulling into Arby’s. The thing I realized is, “Arby’s kind of sucks.” I mean sure my marinara drenched cheese sticks smashed onto my roast beef sandwiches seems like a great meal, but I know how it makes me feel afterwards. Also, I sort of know what I’m ingesting into my system, or, actually, I don’t, which is far worse. And sitting there in the drive-thru line, I got sort of sad. Depressed even. I felt like Holden Caufield when he wanders around New York and randomly cries a bunch.
“So why didn’t you just leave?” I can hear you thinking. Well, Arby’s has thought the same thing apparently because here’s the thing: they wall you in. The drive-thru is one lane with a large wall on one side, so if you have a car in front of you—I did—and one behind you—I also did—then you are stuck. Stuck. Such is life . . .
And then the wait started. It was probably five minutes before I could order. Which, when waiting for something great—a new car, a first kiss, a warm shower on a cold day—five minutes is nothing. But when you are waiting for low-grade garbage to eat, well, five minutes can drag a bit. I was Solomon: Meaningless, meaningless, meaningless.
I ordered my food—finally!—and things went from bad to worse. The voice came over the intercom: “Your total is $6.66. Please pull around.”
I checked the backseat and mirrors with a shudder . . . was Satan here in the car somewhere? Here I was at the low-point of my fast food life, and I get the number of the devil as my total!
When the car in front of me pulled off into the doomed night, I pulled forward to the window, and a gum-chanking teenager greeted me with, “$6.66 is your total . . . ooooh, that is an ominous number.” Yep, she said “ominous.” The public school system had served her well. Ominous.
She took my card and glanced at the name and looked back at me exuberantly (or ominously depending on your perspective of teenage girls immediately recognizing you). “You’re Matt Gordon!”
Oh, no. “Uh, yeah,” I answered flinching.
“You spoke at a camp I attended last year. Been saved a year now, and you were a big part of that!” she ran my card then handed it back with a smile. “My name’s Abby.”
I vaguely remembered, but it didn’t matter. Eternity had broken through.
Bad roast beef had never tasted so good. Even cold, it had a fulfilling taste because each bite reminded me that God is here, He is at work, and where He works meaningless falls away to nothingness, leaving only the something of hope and purpose behind.
We are halfhearted creatures, but we serve a God who looks on at our emptiness and offers us a fullness, an abundance. He offers us Himself, forever.
I smiled and took another bite.