With just one line, Clement has left us with a searing appraisal of the Lord's work in the world. However potent this quote is, I think if left unexamined, this sunrise can be a misnomer. Don’t get me wrong, the Lord does recreate our broken persepctives into a complete, bonded outlooks of hope. And, even still, it’s the Light that undeniably brings such beauty to our gaze.
The potential misnomer here rests in the idea of our lives continually being one of sunshine. Now, worded this way, obviously we would all probably agree that this isn’t the case… and Clement, for that matter, would be on our side as well. But I still hear certain theologies alluding to outlooks like the one suggested in the misnomer. They would have us believe we are not in tough situations. That we are not in sickness. That we are not in the midst of hurt. That we are not surrounded by death. So what then? If we had to give an account of our “change of perspective”, what would we answer? “Life is easier”, or “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”? Hopefully through Christ’s salvation, you can attest to these truths. But that still doesn’t give a clear account of our perspective change.
I was reading C. Stephen Evans’ classic work on Existentialism - which you can find here - and he begins to tell the story of watching t.v. too late one night, and ended up surpassing the “tired phase”. When he finally turned off the television, he sat there in the dark thinking about who he was in God. Neat story. He’s actually quite poignant here, as he discusses the simultaneous workings of despair and hope in the person’s mind. However, that story got me thinking. It caused me to reconsider Clement’s statement - which I’ve loved for years, and still do. A simple metaphor came to mind, which helped me to better cope with how I see the world. And this metaphor wasn’t of me simply standing in a sunset, reappropriating it to be a sunrise.
I pictured the Christian life to be more like this: As I’m lying in my bed, I reach over and turn off the t.v., and all of its distractions, temptations, and artificial glow. Now, I am left looking out into a room that’s pitch black, empty, sense-robbing. Little by little, though, my vision becomes more clear. My eyes adjust, and my context is somehow illumined. Things become discernable. My placement and surroundings begin to make sense.
I’m still presently in a dark room in that scenario, but I’m given a new sight, if you will. When it was pitch black, I saw nothing. When I first began to perceive things, they were only silhouettes - at times even casting the outlines of monsters. For a brief moment, that shirt draped over the chair is reimagined as a daunting figure standing over me. Through perseverance during this development, however, my eyes soon look past the superficial, and see the object for what it is. Soon, all of the deep, endless black begins to gain proportion and detail. Greys begin to come out. Sometimes, even color. Through this process I begin to see the truth in all things around me, and begin to have hope that I haven’t fallen into some endless chasm or abyss. No, I’m exactly where I was just a moment before, only now I see.
Does my soul find completion in Christ, so that inwardly, through the Holy Spirit, I can always find the tranquility of the Sunrise, which is Christ? Yes. Does my mortal, frail, and temporally limited body always find the same completion. No. But that doesn’t mean that the alternative is an endless void either. God brings awareness to His children (e.g. Bible, prayer, others’ testimonies, etc.). The only reason I’m addressing this right now, as mentioned above, is that there are sadly some theologies that rob the mind of truth. With an optimistic heart, they intentd to have the person elevated above their circumstance. However holy this desire can be, the catch is that the person isn’t wholly divorced from those things yet.
To say someone is “so heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good” is annoying, and riddled with it’s own fallacious implications. So, instead of splitting our lives into some black and white dichotomy, I want to suggest something more uniting. We can be both joyful here in our time in the physical, while still remaining enthralled with the metaphyscial glory of God and our placement in His Kingdom. We must only recognize that God is sovereign over both the light and the darkness too. He is sovereign over the shirts-draped-over-chairs of our lives. He has intentionally chosen our story - us, as eternal-future enduring souls - to involve a time of being placed in a dark room.
To divorce the two “worlds” creates a schism in our hope. There is sin, hurt, and death here in our physical world. But Christ transcended this would-be seperation, and conquered those imperfections. He did not do so from some elevated place. He did so on a hill. On real wood. And spent 3 days in his own dark enclosure. God’s reign is not limited to the ethereal realm of spiritualism. He reigns throughout. So, as I sit in my dark room of life here in this fallen world, I need not only to look up to heaven, but to look out into the world He has conquered. We, in all of our lot - presently now, and eternally in the future - are part of God’s narrative. That makes us safe. That is the sunrise.