Over the last month, I have fought a bitter battle against cynicism. It tries to convince me of many lies and attacks the truths God has shown me. The greatest attacks have come been launched at the truths God showed me in Ethiopia.
Cynicism tries to tell me that the best parts of my trip to Ethiopia aren’t applicable here in Dallas. It wants to convince me that ‘reality’ isn’t anything like the close fellowship and impactful work I did over there. The truth is that my trip to Ethiopia was much closer to reality than most of my days in Dallas.
We don’t see clearly here on Earth. Our vision is the worst in the midst of our daily grind. Reality lies beyond what we can see with our eyes.
My daily life in Dallas is more like a dream from which I will wake one day. I will step out of this dream and enter into the eternal reality of Heaven. It would be a shame if I let a dream impact my view of reality.
The phrase dream of a dream is a reference to The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. I loved the stories of Narnia growing up and much of them still rests in my heart and mind. I’ve thought about one part many times and it always makes me sad.
In the last book, The Last Battle, three of the Pevensie children discuss their sister Susan and how she stopped believing in Narnia.
Has not your Majesty two sisters? Where is Queen Susan?
“My sister Susan,” answered Peter shortly and gravely, “is no longer a friend of Narnia.”
“Yes,” said Eustace, “and whenever you’ve tried to get her to come and talk about Narnia or do anything about Narnia, she says, “What wonderful memories you have! Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.”
The same character who spent fifteen years in the world of Narnia became convinced that none of it was real. She was also convinced of this in far less than fifteen years. I go back to this part in my mind because it strikes me as tragic.
Can you imagine experiencing years worth of adventures in Narnia and then becoming convinced it never happened? Thinking about a world filled with magic and wonder makes my heart race. The idea of going to such a place and then writing it off as make believe causes my heart to stumble and fall in the midst of that race.
It surprised me when I realized a similar tragedy stands at the doorstep of my heart.
A doubt has come knocking and it’s call grows louder each day. It wants to convince me that my time in Ethiopia was an outlier and not a legitimate experience I can build on. It wants to convince me that what I experienced was not a part of the ‘real world’.
The doubt whispers about circumstances lining up just right and making for a unique experience. It follows this logic by pointing out the difficulty or impossibility of recreating those circumstances. At the end of the argument, the doubt says my trip to Ethiopia was an incredible respite, but I must come back down from the clouds and get back to the reality of the daily grind.
This doubt pushes me away from the wonder, beauty, and truth I experienced in Ethiopia. It drags me in the direction of a cynical outlook of my trip and it’s ability to impact my life here in Dallas. The worst part is how this cynical perspective feels like the mature and adult way of looking at my trip.
One of the characters in The Last Battle talks about how Susan fell prey to a similar cynical perspective.
“Oh Susan!” said Jill. “She’s interested in nothing nowadays except nylons and lipstick and invitations. She always was a jolly sight too keen on being grown-up.”
In trying to be ‘grown-up’, Susan explains away her memories of Narnia and replaces them with nylons, lipstick, and parties. My perspective of cynicism pulls me away from my memories of fellowship and making an eternal impact. It draws me to thoughts of cool stuff I can buy, new restaurants, and thinking about my social life.
The doubt at my door and the cynical perspective both tell me that all of those thoughts are mature or grown up. They lead me to thinking material and trivial things are more important because I deal with them on a daily basis. This is an argument for quantity over quality though and it defeats itself.
Our time on Earth will pale in comparison to our time in Heaven. Even though our time here can feel painfully long, it will seem like the blink of an eye one day. Possibly the most incredible truth I gained from Ethiopia is that my time there was a small taste of my eternity in Heaven.
All of us will experience the joyful tears, the exuberant singing, and powerful laughter forever. We will not experience the worry, the fear, or anymore tears after we step into Heaven. Those things along with all the temporary shadows of pleasure will pass away.
Doubt and cynicism want me to focus on all of the temporary things in this world and think of Ethiopia as something akin to a dream. It is the temporary struggles and pleasures of this world which will one day feel like a dream though.
Keeping this in mind will become a great help as I enter the fray of daily life where a thousand things seek to distract my mind or steal my heart.
Does cynicism play a role in your life? Is there anything you can do to fight back against it? Do you ever forget that the pains of this world will one day seem like just a moment in your life?
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