The Barbarian’s Heart
In my ongoing research on beauty within the Northernness C.S. Lewis spoke of so fondly, I recently happened upon this unique specimen of northern beauty along Oxford’s Queen’s Lane. You’ll note in the photograph there seems to be some transcendent quality residing in the subject. After comparing this specimen with others found in the “special collections” section of the Bodleian, I must conclude that this person possesses a kind of Northern beauty found nowhere else on earth. It’s amazing the peculiar and startling beauties I find strolling the back walks of this ancient city.
I want my introduction to this man to be short, because his words carry the kind of weight that brings levity. Timothy Willard loves his beautiful wife (see above photo), he loves the church, and he loves the Haines family. There was no way he could know in writing this that he was speaking straight to the ache inside me. Also, he uses the word “denude,” which is a mighty good word, so please read forth.
And there it went, flung out my mouth without thought, inscribed with arrogance. It landed in her heart and I knew I had stung her. My indignation seethed, conflicted within the complexities of my love for her.
What do we think? That we can just say what we want and move on? If I have learned one thing during my fourteen years as a husband, it’s that I can’t just say what I want, how I want, without consequence.
I like to think of “what I say” as diction; you know, the words we speak. I like to think of “how I say it” as poetic; not that I’m a poet when I talk, but hopefully that what I’m saying carries an ease and beauty, a thoughtfulness and fidelity.
And so I am constantly evaluating my poetic diction with my wife and children. Unfortunately, my evaluations often characterize my talk as that of a barbarian; a miscreant, a knuckle-dragger.
The same rules apply to my spiritual life. How is my poetic diction within the context of church? And by church, of course, I mean you and I; the ones who gather on the Little Easters every week. Do I say what I want, how I want, to you and to others within the remnant? Do I blurt barbarous barbs to and about God as well?
I find a curious connection between my life as a husband and my life as a bride, the collective bride of Christ. In both cases, my behavior speaks to the readiness, and state, of my heart for the love I seek.
But there is something else, isn’t there? Something beneath the surface. It drives my action and reaction towards my wife, and towards you. It denudes the true intentions of my heart. It’s what C.S. Lewis was getting at in his sermon “The Weight of Glory.” Theologians and talking-heads will try and tell us that what we think of God matters more than anything else. Lewis cries no it is not! What God thinks of us, says Lewis, matters infinitely more.
What does he mean?
Lewis’s “weight of glory” is the reward for our faith, that “thing” we desire most of all in this life. My wife feels it when she awaits my responses in conversations and in arguments. You feel it while you wait upon my reaction to your infernal blog post about something with which I disagree. (I say that with my tongue stuck into my cheek!)
That reward is precisely the affection of God; his saying to me, “Well done, my son!” It’s his acceptance of me, and you. It’s our fame in heaven. Fame here is not the kind we’re familiar with. It’s the kind Thomas Aquinas talks about: the importance of man’s glory with God is.
This is what we all want isn’t it? To be fully known. To be glorified by God (Ps. 90:15,16). To be validated as important individuals. To be known by God, loved and accepted.
When I fail to live in the truth of my knownness I tend to fall into barbarian mode. I scrap for validation and I’ll topple you to get it. When we forget this beautiful position before God, we, or at least I, tend to lash out. Because, YAWP, I want my view point heard, by God, because I’m important! I matter. I, I, I, me, me, me!
And so the spiral goes.
I am not a legalist when it comes to Christian behavior. Rather, I am a seeker of glory: God’s. It is this glory, this acceptance, that demolishes the lustful need to YAWP my way through relationships, leveraging my ambition within my relationships to get what I want.
And so, when I catch myself slinging odd fragments of thoughts that I think are arguments at my wife, friends, or brothers and sisters in the church, I run to my closet. You know, the one in my head where I fall on my face and say, “Take from this barbarian’ heart, and shine your glory upon me. Shine your acceptance on me that I might live, and breathe and act in the confidence of your love.