Monday, November 14, 2016
earth: the divine comedy
He does leave an important part of Dante's story out, though. He leaves out purgatory. In Dante's story, we have three places... hell, where people are punished forever. Purgatory, where people suffer for awhile and then go on to heaven. And heaven, where people are in God's presence and are eternally happy.
It's odd to me that Lewis calls Earth heaven and hell, but doesn't call it purgatory. This is odd, because to me, the part of the Comedy that it most resembles IS purgatory. I mean, none of us will suffer on earth forever. And none of us experience God in His fullness and are in perfect, heavenly bliss. But what we ARE doing here, it seems to me, is suffering and being purified by that suffering so that we may one day go on to our reward in Heaven.
I know Lewis was saying that EVENTUALLY we will look back on Earth and say that it was hell (if we end up in hell) or that it was heaven (if we find ourselves with Him at the end). But I think a healthy way to see this life is as being purgatorial. It definitely helps us make sense of a great deal of the suffering that we both experience ourselves and see in the lives of those we love.
And sense is what we need, isn't it? Isn't senseless suffering the worst kind? If I go to the doctor, and he jabs me with a needle, it hurts... but I accept that pain because I know it's going to make me better. But if I visit a friend who just randomly jabs me with a needle every so often... I probably won't visit that friend much in the future. Random, senseless suffering is something our brains recoil from. We want to know WHY we are suffering. And being purified from our sins does make alot of sense.
Does that mean Jesus didn't take away all of our sins when He died? No, it doesn't. Of course He did. But all of us know that there are consequences to our actions. If we steal a car, we can certainly ask God for forgiveness. And He will forgives us. That sin is covered by the work of Jesus on the cross. But that doesn't mean you won't have to go to jail for grand theft auto.
We all know that none of us are perfect. And we also know that when we get to heaven, we WILL be perfect. Somehow, between now and then, we will be made perfect. Can God blink His eye and make us perfect? Well, yes, God can do anything. But sometimes the lessons we learn teach us more than just "perfecting us". Sometimes the lessons found in suffering teach us patience, and kindness, and gentleness... in ways that we don't learn them elsewhere.
God, thank You for using the suffering we find in our purgatorial walk through Earth to bring us into Your presence.... both now, and in the world to come.