Recently read a bit of C.S. Lewis’s, “Meditations in a tool shed”, most especially the beginning in which C.S. Lewis describes his observation of a sunbeam in a shed.
“I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside, and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it. Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam, are very different experiences.”
Lewis is talking about the differences of how we experience the beam, but as I was thinking about this it struck me the beam also shows us the cracks. The places in this world God gives us a vision of what’s outside the shed. For years I have wondered about those experiences that can seem glorious in the moment, and actually heavenly, and yet also so rare. It is the moment when God opens up a very small window into heaven you might say. One experience in particular stands out to me as illustrative of this. Years ago I worked as an account manager for a Pharmaceutical company and drove throughout the state of Oregon as part of my responsibilities. One evening just before Christmas I was driving on a rather remote part of Highway 97 in Central Oregon between Klamath Falls and Bend, not far from the village of Chemult, listening to a production of Handel’s “Messiah” that was playing on the radio. “Messiah” is one of my all time favorite pieces of music, especially during the Holidays, and I was enjoying it immensely. It had been a long trip so I pulled off the road to a rather primitive rest area to take a short break. The rest area was on a very remote part of the highway, and it was mid-evening, so there were no other cars nearby. I got out and found that it was clear and cold with a heavy snow recently covering the ground and almost everything else around, turned off the headlights. I left the car running and the door open because I didn’t plan staying long and I wanted continue to listen to “Messiah” playing in the background, I looked up at the clear sky and a beautiful vision of the Milky Way opened above as the “Messiah” came to the famous “Hallelujah Chorus”. I think many if not most of us have had times when it seems that heaven literally opens up….this was one of those moments.
I’ve thought about this moment many times, partly because the feeling of getting a glimpse of heaven is so rare, but mostly because it was so spectacular, and life can be so difficult. These cracks in the shed I think are there not to just to look at, or even to look along a sunbeam, but to see a bit of the outside, and to be assured it’s really there. It’s a crack into a world outside of the shed, one that is so much more glorious than the shed. See, it’s not just looking at the sunbeam, or even along the sunbeam, but from where the sunbeam comes. It’s the outside of the shed that we so rarely get to see but gives us hope that one day we will no longer be trapped in the shed. The sunbeam gives attention to the crack.