Several years ago, I read the Chronicles of Narnia with my daughters. Every book, slowly over weeks and months. (I think we read them in publication order, I can’t recall though.) When we reached the The Last Battle there wasn’t a sense of “we’re finally finished!”
At least not by me. And not even by my middle daughter, who cried because there were no Narnia stories left. Instead, there was a sense of wonder. And of longing.
The beginning of the real story
So what created that sense of longing—and of wonder? Depending on who you talk to, The Last Battle seems to be one of the more divisive books in the series. And yet, from my perspective, it manages to stir something that resides deep in the heart of every human being in one paragraph:
And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.1
What Lewis captured is the hope we all have: that there is something more to life than just what we can see. Every person, no matter what they believe, experiences this. Even if they can’t articulate it, it is there residing in the recesses of our hearts.
That this world is not all that is, and it is not all that it should be.
This is what motivates some to try to create the world they want to see (with results that are predictably problematic). It’s also what the more jaded among us dismiss as pie-in-the-sky fantasy or wishful thinking. But Christians know the truth about this longing. They know it has a name. It is a longing for the world, not simply as it was meant to be, but a world that is to come—a new creation. The new heavens and the new earth. The world as it will be when Christ comes again to make all things new. Renewed, restored, and more real than this one.
The world that we know is coming, but is not yet here.
Longing, hope, and patience
And this longing for the new creation, the expectation we have of what we gain a glimpse of in Revelation, puts our lives in perspective. The experiences we have here now matter, but they are not the whole story. They do not have the final word. Compared to eternity, they are, to borrow Lewis’ analogy, but the cover and the title page of the Great Story. And we have not yet begun the first chapter.
This longing is hope. It’s hope that the promised return is coming soon. That all the sin and sadness and death and doubts and fears and nonsense we all deal with every single day will someday be no more.
But we are not there yet. And many of us struggle to be patient. We want to see that day come. And our longing increases with every news story we read, and every social media post. So wait we must, with hope ever-present in our hearts. Encouraging one another to not lose heart. Challenging each other to focus on what is good and beautiful and true—even as we confront the evils of this world.
The story of this world is not all that is being written. There is another one, more real, more perfect and pure. One where sin and death will not have the final word, because Jesus has overcome them. And someday we will begin the first chapter of that great story, and like Lewis’ creations, we too will find that every chapter is better than the one before.
- C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle, as published in The Complete Chronicles of Narnia, 524.