Out of This Far Country

The Dragon's tail twitched at the end. "Do I know you?" he asked, turning his great head to peer at the man more clearly with one eye. "You seem familiar."

"We have met," Prince Aethelbald said.

Heartless, Anne Elisabeth Stengl

It grabbed me by the throat today. It's funny, how you can be trucking along with life, doing passably, minding your own business, and it comes around the corner on you, grabbing you by the throat. It did that to me. I clicked an idle link on an idle blog, idly interested in following it because it said it would lead to a song by Andrew Peterson. And it did. But it led to more than that.

It doesn't just grab you by the throat, you know. It has horrible eagle-claws that dig into your chest and rout out your heart, too, if you have a heart to be routed out. Not everyone does. But somehow, I think I would rather suffer that sudden agony point by point, more and more, as the day draws near rather than be steeled against it. I would rather stare back at Deep Heaven and feel my smallness under it than go crazy and deny it. I would rather live and hurt than be dead and feel nothing. It's a strangely horrible, beautiful pain.

And it caught me by the throat today.

It was the song that gave it critical mass. I had been reading studiously earlier, finishing up a rather lovely fantasy novel that, with each word as I neared the ending, chipped away at my sleepless dullness. A little at a loss, for I am always a little at a loss when I finish a book, I wandered after the idle link and clicked on the song. It began to play: The Far Country. I felt the words reaching out to strangle me, because you can only reach it by dying. Images, memories of beautiful places real and conjured, the sound of waves falling, the sound of the wind in autumn leaves, the warm feeling of life in the earth under my feet, people's words - Christ's, Lewis', MacDonald's, Stengl's, even Sutcliff's - gnarled and knotted in my veins. The Far Country - the Far Country!

this is a far country, a far country
not my home

We walk in Abraham's footsteps through a strange land, and he walked in Christ's, and in every footstep that we leave there is a drop of grace. I hadn't forgot, but I wasn't remembering, and it sprang out at me like a panther. Maybe you have felt its claws too, and the way it leaves you disembodied like a leaf borne on a wind, a wind which no one knows where it came from, no one knows where it is going. Even the leaf doesn't know, just that where it is going is home.

and I long to find it
can you feel it, too?
that the sun that's shining
is a shadow of the truth

I'm reading Hebrews. It's funny, isn't it, how imperturbable God's conspiracy of sanctification is? I finished a book about a dragon-slayer who drank up death and lived to tell about it. I'm reading Hebrews, a book about the endurance of the saints through the shadow things of this world and the hope of those real things to come. I clicked on a song by Andrew Peterson, and a shining spear took me through the hollow of my throat. I remembered: I'm a stranger in a strange land. The books and the song made a part in the hedgerow, they were that mountain on which Christian stood, from which he gazed by spyglass far off and upward, catching a glimpse of the Celestial City. And it hurts, because there is so far to go, so many things to endure, so much loneliness and death-dark vales to go through. The Far Country is so far away. But with the wandering of Abraham is mingled the hopeful faith of the book of Hebrews. It doesn't lessen the pain - I don't know if I want it to. I know some people say faith is superstition, that this pain is neurological nostalgia, that the Far Country doesn't exist. I know why they say that: it takes eyes that see to see it and a heart that beats to love it, and only the Prince of That Country gives those things out. They don't grow in This World. In this dispirited, materialistic time I know that some of the things I know best are things I have never seen. They are the things that shod men's feet with iron, that set their faces like flint. They strengthen the cords of their hearts and strike fire inside them. They make us run the race with endurance. They carry us through the fight to the death - and beyond.

I was made to go there
out of this far country
to my home, to my home

I saw a glimpse of the Far Country today. I couldn't tell you what it looks like, save that righteousness dwells there; I couldn't tell you where it is, save beyond a death by burning. But I smelled it, and I heard it, and I swear I caught a glimpse of it, and I know it is there. We know it is there. We call it by many names, fantastical and otherwise: Elvenhome, the Far Country, Farthestshore, a New Heaven and a New Earth, the Sabbath... But whatever other names we use to describe it, we all use one together.


3 ripostes:

  1. This is altogether beautiful, Jenny. What a wonderful reminder!

  2. I know what you mean.

    That's all.

  3. Wow! That picture and the words of this post! But more so the words! They were painting pictures in my mind... and made my heart gasp and speed up, maid me see the hedgegrows pulled back...

    "Oh Aslan," said Lucy, "Will you tell us how to get to your country from our world?"

    “But I will not tell you how long or short the way will be; only that it lies across a river. But do not fear that, for I am the great Bridge Builder.