This blog has been a quiet ambition of mine for a few years now. As a stay-at-home-mum I do my share of web-surfing (it is far more suited to the interruptions of life with small children than a novel), and I have often wanted a place to share my experiences and thoughts on this life.
I hope you find the title of the blog intriguing. I think many of you will already partly get it (C. S. Lewis will feature frequently on these pages) but just to be clear:
The title of this blog summarises my view of this life.
We are in a shadowlands. This term was beautifully coined by C. S. Lewis to describe this life. We inhabit a world of shadows cast by greater realities. But we are deceived into believing that these shadows are the only reality. By understanding their true nature – fleeting, insubstantial – our gaze can be directed to the true, ultimate realities which we are really grasping for.
To put this into less abstract form – everything we love and pursue in this life are like pictures of something Greater, Realer. The love we experience in this life is a hazy image of the Real, Eternal Love. The beauty we see and enjoy in this life is a pale reflection of the great Beauty of God. Anything we rejoice in, anything that brings us joy, can be traced back to the ultimate Goodness and joy of God himself.
Particularly C. S. Lewis wrote about Joy, and I identify fully with his sense of longing at the sight of a night sky studded with stars, or a landscape, or a friendship. Lewis believed that these moments, these worshipful pauses in the rush of every day life, make our souls aware of something beyond ourselves. Ultimtely, when we pause in wonder at anything we are truly longing for the deeper reality behind these things – God himself.
So that’s the shadowlands bit – I live as if this life is shadows and pictures, waiting for the greater reality.
But that’s not to say that this life is insignificant. This life is all we have for the moment. It may be made of shadows but they are wonderful, brilliant shadows all the same, like the shadows cast by sunlight falling through coloured glass. Every good thing we receive in this life is a gift of God. And so I make every effort to dance through this life by enjoying every good thing I receive.
Yes, it takes effort. As human beings we are astoundingly inept at noticing the good, the grace, the mercy, the gift. We see instead the lack, the absence, the pain and the darkness. At least I did for many years. I was in a cycle of misery and depression for a long time, feeling that this life was meaningless and would only bring hurt. At one point I could not bear to look forward, because I was so afraid of what might be around the corner.
And I am not denying that life can bring some sucker punches that knock us off our feet.
But the key to a happy life, the key to dancing through the shadows, is thankfulness. It is opening my eyes to any good that might be before me in this moment. And the incredible thing I have found is that once I started looking, I see good everywhere. I see mercy and grace and God’s love pouring down from heaven until I can’t help but sing and dance.
As I write this I am going through a bout of Crohn’s disease (another thread to my story which will appear regularly on this blog). It brings pain, nausea, diarrhoea and exhaustion. It makes life hard, not just for me but for my husband, children and mum.
My life is not all rainbows and roses. But, to go all poetical on you, you don’t get rainbows without rain. The rainbow of my Crohn’s is that I have learned to love the moments when I am strong and well, when doing the laundry and cooking tea is a pleasure instead of a chore. I am thankful that I am still able to cook for my family, and mop, and put clean clothes in their wardrobes (instead of being in a hospital bed). I am thankful that I have children at all. I am thankful that I can access free medical care for my Crohns so that it can be kept in check. I am thankful that I am alive.
And if I do, one day, find myself in a hospital bed facing the worst, I will be utterly thankful and full of joy because I will not be facing the unknown but stepping into a world I know very well. I will know its shapes and form, because I have been living among its shadows for so long. I will fall into the arms of a Saviour who gave his own life for me, and I will see the smile of a Father who has watched over me and sent shadows and rain clouds and rainbows.
Meanwhile, I am dancing.