I just finished reading the book A Severe Mercy. It’s a powerful book. So many things stood out to me, but one passage in particular caught my attention, causing me to re-read it several times and really ponder its meaning. Sheldon Vanauken so eloquently puts into words how we tend to view time. It left me in awe of the hope of heaven and eternity with God!
“If, indeed we all have a kind of appetite for eternity, we have allowed ourselves to be caught up in a society that frustrates our longing at every turn. Half our inventions are advertised to save time – the washing machine, the fast car, the jet flight – but for what? Never were people more harried by time: by watches, by buzzers, by time clocks, by precise schedules, by the beginning of the programme. There is, in fact, some truth in ‘the good old days’: no other civilization of the past was ever so harried by time.
And yet, why not? Time is our natural environment. We live in time as we live in the air we breathe. And we love the air – who has not taken deep breaths of pure, fresh country air, just for the pleasure of it? How strange that we cannot love time. It spoils our loveliest moments. Nothing quite comes up to expectations because of it. We alone: animals, so far as we can see, are unaware of time, improbable. Time is their natural environment. Why do we sense that it is not ours?
C.S. Lewis, in his second letter to me at Oxford, asked how it was that I, as a product of a materialistic universe, was not at home there. ‘Do fish complain of the sea for being wet? Or if they did, would that fact itself not strongly suggest that they had not always been, or would not always be, purely aquatic creatures?’ Then, if we complain of time and take such joy in the seemingly timeless moment, what does that suggest?
It suggests that we have not always been or will not always be purely temporal creatures. It suggests that we were created for eternity. Not only are we harried by time, we seem unable, despite a thousand generations, even to get used to it. We are always amazed at it – how fast it goes, how slowly it goes, how much of it is gone. Where, we cry, has the time gone? We aren’t adapted to it, not at home in it. If that is so, it may appear as a proof, or at least a powerful suggestion that eternity exists and is our home…..Heaven is, indeed home.”