Playing Happy Families

Every once in a while in my life I have come across metaphors which have opened my eyes to the hope of heaven. They have driven me to understand what it will mean to see Christ face to face and to be like Him. The first time I remember was while reading the book of Revelation: the crystal river of waters flowing into the city of God captured my imagination and haunted my young life with hope.

Once I stayed home from work because I was sick. I was feverish from reading The Last Battle for the first time. I could not possibly go to work. Heaven was not an abstract anymore. It was something I might just yet love. Of course, my mind was skeptical with all that talk of Tash as Aslan but it didn’t matter; I saw Heaven opened up and I was invited in. For many years that vision sustained me.

Metaphors don’t always work quickly. Have you ever found yourself referring back to something you saw a long time ago but failed to grasp it at the time? A couple of years ago my daughter and I had watched the movie The Tree of Life. It is a slow movie and my daughter didn’t like it (in the same way she wouldn’t like Kristin Lavransdatter), not yet. I liked the movie, although it intruded upon my consciousness uncomfortably. I liked it but I couldn’t see it; it hurt.

Writing about my life has forced me to be transparent. In a way it has forced me to sift through my own romantic visions of my family with some of the rawer aspects of life in a family. Living intimately with 11 people is fraught with the potential for disaster. It is not just the water bill that has to be multiplied by 10. Our family is especially vulnerable because we only have one member who did not want to be in charge. Smile. My 6 older boys are all leaders. Strong people are not often easy to live with. And so there were wonderful, happy memories tainted by things we would rather not remember. Hard things. Imperfections. Sicknesses. Sin.

Sometimes these things wash over me and threaten to engulf me with sadness. Not all the time. Not often. But sometimes. This month I have been seeing in my mind that beach at the end of The Tree of Life. That beach where the whole family meets together as in a dream where all is well. Only this is not a romantic dream of what things could have been but weren’t. Because they weren’t and never could have been. This beach is the way things will be. The Real reality. The worst of us will be there and we will be able to smile at one another and forgive one another and love one another.

If you don’t know what I am talking about watch the movie. In the end, it is not a story of evil being punished but it is a story of it being redeemed and that is a far better story.

Tolstoy was right. Happy families are all alike. They are redeemed.

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