The Elephant of Desire in the Kayak of Our Imagination

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (HarperOne; 2001), page 149:

There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.

Peter Kreeft, Heaven: The Heart’s Deepest Longing (Ignatius; 1989), pages 43–44:

Take an hour or so to do this experiment, not just read about it. (The simple act of taking an hour away from external diversions for inner confrontation with your heart, no matter what comes of it, may he the hardest part of the experiment — and also the most valuable and desperately needed in your hectic life.)

Ask your heart what it wants. Make a list. The sky’s the limit.

Now imagine you are God; there is no limit to your power. Design your own heaven and then give it to yourself.

First imagine what you want. Then imagine getting it all. Finally, imagine having it for eternity. How soon do you think you would grow bored or restless?

Suppose your first list wasn’t very profound. Try again. Go deeper this time: not pleasure and power and fame and money and leisure, say, but good friends and good health and intelligence and a good conscience and freedom and peace of mind. That might take a few more millennia to bore you, perhaps. But aren’t all imaginable utopias ultimately boring? In fact, aren’t the most perfect ones the most boring of all? Doesn’t every fairy tale fail at the end to make “they all lived happily ever after” sound half as interesting as the thrills of getting there?

Can you imagine any heaven that would not eventually be a bore? If not, does that mean that every good thing must come to an end, even heaven? After eighty or ninety years most people are ready to die; will we feel the same after eighty or ninety centuries of heaven? Would you have to invent death in your ideal, invented heaven? What a heaven — so wonderful you commit suicide to escape it!

But if we don’t want death and we don’t want boredom in heaven, what do we want? If heaven is real, what real desire does it satisfy? And even if it is unreal, only wishful thinking, what is the wish? What do we want?

We want a heaven without death and without boredom. But we cannot imagine such a heaven. How can we desire something we cannot imagine?

Our desires go far deeper than our imagination or our thought; the heart is deeper than the mind.

Psalm 16:11:

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

The Root of All Our Unhappiness

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (HarperOne; 2001), page 46:

When we want to be something other than the thing God wants us to be, we must be wanting what, in fact, will not make us happy. Those Divine demands which sound to our natural ears most like those of a despot and least like those of a lover, in fact marshal us where we should want to go if we knew what we wanted.

Ed Shaw, The Plausibility Problem: The Church and Same-Sex Attraction (IVP UK only; 2015), page 69:

When I want to live life as a gay man, to embrace the whole modern identity and lifestyle, God’s Word assures me that it will not make me happy: even though denying my sexual feelings the affirmation and expression I so want sounds cruel and unloving, it is actually what I would choose myself if I knew what was best for me. Psalm 19 guarantees me what I most want, even as it stops me getting that in the way I often want it.

That’s why I’m seeking to make God’s Word the authority in my life rather that what I (or any other human being) might think will bring me happiness. Which, of course, is what being a Christian is really all about: taking God at his Word, and so trusting him. Doing the very opposite: not taking God at his Word, and so disobeying him, is what humanity has done instinctively ever since Adam and Eve led the way.

At the heart of being a Christian is a recognition that we have been submitting to the wrong authority – our own happiness. And that we need to submit to a new authority – God’s way to be happy as set out in his Word. That is why there is something deeply wrong when Christians start editing out those bits of the Bible they aren’t happy with – it shows that they are not really submitting to God after all, but want to continue to define what is right and wrong for themselves. This has always been a mistake and has caused all the unhappiness in our world.

Here’s a brief introduction to the author, Ed Shaw:

Zooming and Panning

One of the great challenges we face in studying Scripture is the way we are forced to move from the cosmic to the personal, back to the cosmic, and then back to the personal. We are always trying to focus on the massive seismic implications of Christ in the universe as we drop into the life and ethics and affections of our lives in Christ. But for that to happen we must again see ourselves within the cosmic context.

The Bible keeps us zooming and panning, not getting lost in the cosmic in the neglect of the personal, and not getting preoccupied with felt needs of life so we lose the cosmic perspective. Which means for us Christians, understanding our proper context as Christians means keeping our hand on the lens.

This is why my eye is drawn to the video work of urban filmmaker Rob Whitworth. He does with urban landscapes what theology (at its best) seeks to accomplish, using stunning time-lapse photography to merge the grand with the personal. Here’s two short films that do it well:

Dubai Flow Motion (2015)

This is Shanghai (2014)