Insatiable Love

A popular Anglican and a humble Arab help us un-cover more than most of us imagine when we survey the wondrous cross.

Last week I noted how most crosses today depict only Jesus’ payment for sin, a forensic view of redemption based on law. The center image found on older crosses (a sphere) has been discarded. We don’t see what C. S. Lewis called “the revelry of insatiable love.”

He mentions this in his book, The Discarded Image. For eons, spheres depicted God, the heavens, the earth, etc. When medieval people looked up, at cathedral ceilings stuffed with spheres, the effect was like looking in, to the center of life where, “we do not see, like Meredith’s Lucifer, ‘the army of unalterable law’, but rather the revelry of insatiable love.”[1]

Say what? Lewis is referring to George Meredith’s fantasy poem “Lucifer in Starlight” which imagines Satan taking one last stab at rebelling. He ascends to the third heaven, looks back to the earth but—looking in to the center—only sees as far as “the army of unalterable law.” Lucifer broke the law long ago and the law won. No more rebellions.

But note what Lucifer doesn’t see: “the revelry of insatiable love.” Lucifer does not see further in… to love… for angels are not made for love. They’re law enforcers, protective of God’s holiness, glory. Nor are they redeemable, so when one-third of the angelic realm fell, there was no redemption. Angels, even fallen ones, only see law.

What’s astonishing is this is pretty much what Christians see when they survey the cross: law, substitutionary atonement, gospels of sin management.[2] Anselm introduced this, Enlightenment thinkers bolstered it, discarding the cosmos of spheres (too mysterious) in favor of straight lines.[3] The center of the cross was discarded. No sphere, no betrothal.

We’re to come further in than law, to the revelry of insatiable love. Revelry is joy. Insatiable is “thirst delighted yet not quenched,” the quality of love where we’re satisfied to the fullest measure here on earth while being drawn to the wondrous delights of love in eternity.

And what is love’s most wondrous delight? We turn to a humble Arab, Agur, the writer of Proverbs 30. In verses 18-19, he writes of “three things too wonderful for me, four that I cannot understand. The way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a young woman.”

All have a mysterious means of movement, and all four describe the movement of one thing within the sphere or domain of another. God is a sphere, so all four depict the mysterious movement of God, a sphere, within the sphere or domain of another. But the fourth is most wondrous, a man and a woman making love, tasting the revelry of insatiable love.

This is what we see when we come further in to the cross, to the center, to the ancient sphere depicting marriage and nuptial union, the portal into the mystery of our redemption at the cross, our betrothal to Jesus. It’s the “old picture” of God, Lewis wrote, a sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere, with love moving the spheres.

We see this in the last scene in The Last Battle, the last book in Lewis’ Narnia series. Jewel, looking up to the new Narnia, looks in, to the old Narnia, discovering why she loved it so. It looked a little like the New Narnia, pointing her to its eternal delights, so she exclaims to the others, “Come further up, come further in!”

So does Aslan. “Come further in!” Come further up!” And so they do. “Faster and faster they raced, but no one got hot or tired or out of breath.” No fatigue. No fear. No shortness of breath. “Isn’t it wonderful?” says Lucy. “Have you noticed one can’t feel afraid, even if one wants to? Try it.” The children do. They come further up, further in, discovering how perfect love casts out fear. They enter a world of never-ending wonder, perfect love.

Perfect love is indescribable for God is ineffable—too great to be fully described in words. So Lewis runs out of words to describe the Word, closing with Aslan speaking to the children…

“And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

That’s the revelry of insatiable love. Yes, Jesus died to pay our sin debt. That’s what we’re saved from—the law. But we’re saved for the revelry of insatiable love, marriage to Christ, endless wonder as we come further up, further in… forever.

 

[1] C. S. Lewis, The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Cambridge University Press, 1964), 119.

[2] Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God (HarperCollins, 1998), 41.

[3] The best book describing this development is Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World (Yale University Press, 2010).

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