by Katherine Ruch
(We are blessed to have this special post by Katherine, who is the wife of our Bishop, Stewart Ruch. This is re-posted from her own blog, “Still Point of the Turning World,” which you can view at worldstillpoint.blogspot.com.)
The Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis open in all of us, even as adults, that mysterious longing for a world beyond this one in which we live our daily lives. How we long to step into a wardrobe and discover a world where our responsibilities are different, and we have a community so much larger than the one in which we currently transact our business–a community populated with all sorts beyond our imagination. It is a place where good ultimately wins, and the King comes and saves the day.
What C.S. Lewis is giving us in Narnia is an intuition of the Real. Our lives lived in such a small frame, limited by our clouded and sophisticated vision, could and should expand into a broad space that is not fictional, but real. The REAL world we live in with God is much more expansive than our imaginations could ever fathom, but most of the time our world seems, instead, constricted and binding.
How do we get to that expansive place in our minds and hearts, in which our REAL LIFE encompasses what we see but also what we do not see (that is just as real)? I believe this requires a training of the inner vision, practicing the presence of the Unseen Real. Every time we enter into worship of truth and spirit, we align ourselves with that reality larger than ourselves that stretches us beyond our tiny existence.
We have just walked through Holy Week. In our journey with Christ as a Church, we experience the filling of time with eternal space. Our normal experience of time, as a created being, stretches for us in a linear way. When we come into worship, God lets us experience the stretching and filling of time in a vertical way. The grief in the Garden, the cross, the resurrection, come present to us in our immediate experience of time. We are in time outside of time.
Our church [Church of the Resurrection] has many Holy Week services: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday Stations of the Cross, Good Friday Evening Service, Easter Vigil, and Easter Day. Since my husband is the priest leading most of these services, I arrive with my six children, exhausted, dragging in snacks, diaper and wipes, water bottles, carrying the remains in my heart of what it took to get out the door: “What do you mean you still have to comb your hair?” “Put your coat back on.” “Where is his other shoe??!!” “Turn off the lights, please.” “Where is____?” “Who let him out in the garden? Now he is all dirty.” I apologize all the way to church for my impatience and harshness. I am weary, and am prepared to face a service in which my youngest will be quiet, but crawl all over me, need to be kept busy, and different children will go and come with their different responsibilities…choir, acolyting, etc.
But as I quiet myself and enter into the presence of God, I find my time intersecting with another time that infuses meaning into this time. I see my children washing each other’s feet at Maundy Thursday; I see them at the cross praying; I see them dancing at the Vigil and singing with such abandon. I can bring them here where time in God’s kingdom intersects with ours; and we can be drawn out of our petty concerns into the vastness of freedom and release in God. This is the reality that will ultimately be my full reality. For now, however, I live learning to find inner highways to Zion, God’s dwelling. (Ps. 84, “Blessed are those…in whose heart are the highways to Zion.”)
The cross is the ultimate meeting of eternal time with chronological time…the horizontal meeting the vertical. God who created time, comes into time and sacrifices himself–a sacrifice that saves both those before the cross and after. It operates back in time. His resurrection is also this divine intersection, visiting even those who had died before with his living presence. The cross and the resurrection create a bridge for us between our current time lived out on this earth, making a way for us into the eternal time of God. Literally, Jesus, in his body, makes it possible for us to reach outside of our finite time.
It is beautiful to be expanded in this way because we can become so small in our existence, living without awareness of the vastness of the life to which we belong and that we have been so freely given: Eternal Life…not just eternal in its horizontal direction, but eternal in its vertical direction. In other words, at any moment we can enter into a vertical experience of time that takes us into God’s presence, that unbounded by time, moves in and outside of our time.
If God could condense his vastness into a small baby, can he not take us, in our smallness, into his vastness, expanding us into his depths and heights? As we receive his presence, we receive a world that needs new eyes, new ears, new perceptiveness, indeed, a new heart and spirit to be able to engage it. These eyes and ears that we have are not accustomed to seeing beyond our cramped spaces.
Training our imaginations and spirits to see and know the kingdom of God in the now of our lives is a lifetime journey. And we only embark on it one step at a time. The first step is to stop and be in the moment God has created and ask him to infuse it with his kingdom. He walks through walls and the limits of minutes, for he owns all space and time. And if we so desire, he will take us to his kingdom, or better said…will bring it to us right where we are. “The kingdom of God is near.”