What Does it Mean to be Human?: Part 2 - Vastly more than you can imagine

What Does it Mean to be Human?: Part 2 - Vastly more than you can imagine

Reveries  by Maxfield Parrish 1913

Reveries by Maxfield Parrish 1913

Along the fence beside our backyard, there is a massive Burr Oak tree that I estimate is nigh unto 200 years old and could well live a few centuries more. Every few years, it produces acorns that carpet the grass beneath the tree. Only one in thousands ends up sprouting to become a young tree. The remainder have a tiny spark of life that fades after half a year and then disintegrates back into the soil.

Acorn , Photo by  Aaron Burden  on  Unsplash

Acorn, Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

What will your “mighty oak” stage be like?

It would be rather odd to discuss what it means to be an Oak if we talked only of acorns. Yet much of the conversation around what it means to be human does just that, focusing on this mortal life, which is like a dream in the night and forgotten when day comes. Most people live as if this is all there is, like the acorn that never sprouts into a tree. So let’s think for a minute or two about what it means to be human, not just the “acorn” stage, but the eternal “mighty oak tree” stage.

Your two possible destinies

C.S. Lewis gives us a glimpse of what it means to be human from an eternal perspective,

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.[1]

Burr Oak, photo by Kirk

Burr Oak, photo by Kirk

The point behind what Lewis wrote is that you and I massively underestimate what God created us to be. When we read that God created us in the image and likeness of the Trinity we tend to think, “Hmmm. A head, two arms and two legs … is this what it means? But chimpanzees have that!” It is like looking at an acorn and wondering, “How in the world does this represent an Oak tree?” The DNA is identical, but that is about it.

Far beyond anything you have imagined

The acorn is only the first stage of an oak; it is the second stage that is magnificently inconceivable to the mind of an acorn (if it had one). In the same way, we cannot conceive of what the second stage will be like for a human being. Do you ever wonder why the Marvel superhero series is so popular? It is because we have a subconscious awareness that we have been born to be something far greater than we experience in this mortal, “acorn” stage of existence..

You have been created to be entrusted in eternity with enormous capabilities, in a world beyond anything that has entered the heart of humanity to imagine.

You have been created to be entrusted in eternity with enormous capabilities, in a world beyond anything that has entered the heart of humanity to imagine,[2] but how many people live their entire lives as if this is all there is, like an acorn laying on the forest floor, the spark of life slowly fading as it nears the end of its brief life.

Our unsatisfied desires

Regarding our irrational (at least so we think) craving for something far, far greater than anything this mortal life has to offer, C.S. Lewis writes, 

Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water … If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.”[3]

Only a few find this

The tragedy of humanity is that most people will not end up as “a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship”. Instead, the destiny of the majority of humanity will be, as Lewis described, a corruption met “in a nightmare.” Jesus once said, “the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”[4]

“The way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Are you willing?

A few days ago, I paused while walking through the food court of a shopping mall and stood looking around at all the people there, their short lives trickling through their fingers like water, eating food, looking at their smartphones, carrying bags of new stuff that might make them happier for a few moments. Gazing around in quiet desperation, knowing that they were created for something inconceivably greater than this, I felt like screaming out in the food court, “PEOPLE! WAKE UP! YOU ARE FAR, FAR MORE THAN THIS!” but I didn’t of course. People tend to take a dim view of insane fellows yelling in the shopping mall. It is a sad thing knowing that the majority of people, created in the image and likeness of Creator of the universe, will never find the narrow path that leads to eternal life, simply because they resisted what God had to offer. Jesus expressed this same despair when He cried, 

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing![5]

Unlike acorns, we have a choice to accept the gift of eternal life, or resist it. 

Acorn or oak?

C.S. Lewis, in his book Perelandra describes the reaction of the main character, Ransom, upon seeing for the very first time what a human man and woman are like in their full, immortal, flawlessly pure and powerful state,

He found himself involuntarily speaking though his voice was broken and his eyes dimmed. ‘Do not move away, do not raise me up,’ he said. ‘I have never before seen a man or a woman. I have lived all my life among shadows and broken images.’[6]

In this life, you and I are “shadows and broken images” of the Almighty God, Creator of the Universe and the Origin of Beauty and Power, but you can be so much more. The choice is yours, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.[7]” We all start as “acorns”, with our tiny spark of life swiftly fading, but that is not what we were created for … there is the gift of eternal life if you are willing to receive it.

Read Part 1, Implications of thinking you own your body

References:

[1]C.S. Lewis, The weight of glory.

[2]1 Corinthians 2:9.

[3]C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

[4]New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Matthew 7:14). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[5]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Luke 13:34). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6]C.S. Lewis,Perelandra.

[7]New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Romans 6:23). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

Why evil and injustice point to the existence of God

Why evil and injustice point to the existence of God

What Does it Mean to be Human?: Part 1 -- Implications of thinking you own your body

What Does it Mean to be Human?: Part 1 -- Implications of thinking you own your body