Shadow upon Arrival

I remember the grassy slope, an air conditioning unit that doubled as home plate in whiffle ball, a clothesline to empty before we could ride bikes, the backyard where I grew from five to twelve.

I sat, a twiggy legged ten year old in tuck position, toes pointing down slope toward the garden. I stared straight past the swaying asparagus plants and sobbed.

The fact I had no reason to cry--no reason at all--it only made the crying worse.

Two days earlier, the heart under my leotard pounded a mixture of nerves and adrenalin at the final gymnastics meet of the season. I placed in the all-around for the first time, with a personal best on vault and beam. Two days earlier, I was elated.

But two days later, it was over.

And my 10 year old heart felt emptier than a pool in a lightning storm, and about as gloomy.


The thing no one seems to mention--not when you're ten, not when you're forty--is that when you finally arrive at the place you've been striving for, dreaming of, pining for, working toward--it can be a colossal let down.

I could show you a list of the places I arrived, the resolutions made and kept, the chapters completed. And by every checked item on that list, I could show you the corresponding cloaked disappointment, the quiet empty ache that sneaks in when you stop waving and step off the podium.

It's been a long time (over 20 years, I think) since I read The Pilgrim's Regress. Most of it was over my head then. Most of it probably still is. But I latched on to one string of thought from which the entire allegory seemed to hang.

And it is this:

We have the unique ability as humans to imagine and long for that which have never actually experienced.
To dream about a dish we've never tasted.
And, when we finally come to taste that dish, it is never as delectable, as satiating as we imagined it would be. We realize this wasn't the dish we dreamed about after all.
This life feels more like shadow than substance.
We are hungry for more because we were created for more.
The real thing is yet to come.

I apologize for butchering the philosophical work of Lewis with this summary. By now it should be obvious I am neither a theologian nor a philosopher. I'm just the girl who read a book 20 years ago, who cries over the way everything turns to shadow upon arrival. But this disappointment, those tears, this heartbreak is God's gift. In this quiet empty ache, He enlightens. By it, He plants and grows within me a certainty that there must be more. And that He is the More.

Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.
-C.S. Lewis

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