May 13, 2010

Those Were the Days, My Friend: Lingering in the Antechamber to Joy

Posted in Spiritual Life tagged , , at 8:56 pm by Mo Dardinger

One of the songs that I liked back when was a song about “the good old days.” I was too young at the time to have shared the experience elucidated in the verses, but I liked it all the same. It rang true. It told the tale of a group of friends who were sure, as young adults, that the good times they shared together would never end: “We’d sing and dance forever and a day.” They also experienced (and expected to go on experiencing) victory of some sort: “We’d fight and never lose,” the line went.

This song always drew for me a mental picture. Friends gathered in a wood-paneled restaurant or bar. They chatted, joked good-naturedly, lavished their free time on one another. I craved that depth of friendship and fellowship. But I always saw myself as on the outside of the good times, as someone on the other side of the window, out in the street, gazing in longingly.

Then one Sunday morning our worship leader (who was also our senior pastor) heard a word for someone in the congregation. A word from the Lord. (This happens a lot in charismatic congregations, but not so much in the more staid churches that I’ve belonged to since then.) It was something about a wagon wheel and being on the outside looking in. It reminded me of the song, but that’s all. It took my friend Karen to point out to me (after the service had ended) that this was an image I had of myself, and that I should go “claim” the word.

So we approached my pastor, and he and Karen prayed for me. As they prayed, an image came to me. This rare occurrence is what believers usually call “a vision,” as in “your old men will dream dreams, and your young men see visions” (Joel 2:28). The image was of being in the gathering place, enjoying the fellowship of friends. Then the curtain across the back doorway moved aside to reveal a gigantic meeting place, a large auditorium. It was brightly lit, especially in the center. Concentric circles of worshipers joyfully adored the Being in the center.

This was where I belonged. This was what I should have longed for, in addition to friendship. This was true friendship, true fellowship, with all eyes fixed upon the Most Lovely, the One who dwarfs all others, the One who loves incomparably better than the best of us.

“You and I were made to worship,” another song I like proclaims. That truth was brought home to me through this vision. I had been longing for mere earthly friendship. True joy was offered to me (and to all who will come and join in).

Our relationships with our husbands, wives, co-workers, friends — they’re great, sometimes. But they’re out of kilter if worship of the true and living God is not the center of our lives.

The happy gathering place with chattering buddies has its place in our lives. (Grieving with those have suffered loss has its place, too, certainly.) But we must remember that human fellowship is merely the anteroom to heaven, not the main event. The Lord’s love draws us in to a delight that surpasses our happy, youthful, zestful moments. The worshipers in the circle of light enjoy one another’s company, but they don’t make that particular enjoyment their chief aim. They delight in the Lord’s infinite goodness. Other joys are appreciated, received with gratitude from our heavenly suitor, but not sought as the purpose or goal.

Since the day of the vision, I have often lingering on the outside looking in. And I have sometimes participated in true friendship. But we are offered a much greater joy, and I plan to cling to this vision and pursue that joy. I have lingered too long in the antechamber to joy.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: