“Perhaps, I thought, while her words still living in the air between us like a wisp of tobacco smoke – a thought to fade and vanish like smoke without a trace – perhaps all our loves are merely hints and symbols; a hill of many invisible crests; doors that open as in a dream to reveal only a further stretch of carpet and another door, perhaps you and I are types and this sadness which sometimes falls between us springs from disappointment in our search, each straining through and beyond the other, snatching a glimpse now and then of the shadow which turns the corner always a pace or two ahead of us” – Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

There are so many shadows that I often look to for substance in life. Some shadows seem more solid than others, but end up being as empty as the wispier shadows. As the Hebrews author says, “They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things” (8:5).

If I think of engagement as a picture of what this life is like for us as believers (promised, yet not fully realized; present, yet coming fuller; a shadow, yet not the real substance) then a glimpse of what it looks like to wait and long for heaven opens up to me. Again: “These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” (Colossians 2:17).

Annie Dillard on waiting: “Yes, it’s tough, it’s tough, that goes without saying. But isn’t waiting itself and longing a wonder, being played on by wind, sun, and shade?” Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Can you tell me that waiting for something you wanted did not teach you some grain of truth about your self or the world that would have been out of your reach otherwise?

I say we learn to live (praying) with the shadows as shadows, call them shadows, extraordinary shadows no doubt, but shadows nonetheless, and wait purposefully, letting the wind and the sun and the shade play upon us wondrously until all longings are fulfilled in the only real substance.


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