Sunday, June 17, 2012


Happy those early days! when I
Shined in my angel infancy.
Before I understood this place
Appointed for my second race,
Or taught my soul to fancy aught
But a white, celestial thought;
When yet I had not walked above
A mile or two from my first love,
And looking back, at that short space,
Could see a glimpse of His bright face;
When on some gilded cloud or flower
My gazing soul would dwell an hour,
And in those weaker glories spy
Some shadows of eternity;
Before I taught my tongue to wound
My conscience with a sinful sound,
Or had the black art to dispense
A several sin to every sense,
But felt through all this fleshly dress
Bright shoots of everlastingness. 
       O, how I long to travel back,
And tread again that ancient track!
That I might once more reach that plain
Where first I left my glorious train,
From whence th’ enlightened spirit sees
That shady city of palm trees. 
But, ah! my soul with too much stay
Is drunk, and staggers in the way.
Some men a forward motion love;
But I by backward steps would move,
And when this dust falls to the urn,
In that state I came, return.
'The Retreat' ~ By Henry Vaughan 1621–1695

  Have you ever "felt through all this fleshly dress, bright shoots of everlastingness"? For a moment we see through a veil of rain into Heaven. We trace the golden light of a sunbeam back to its source: not the sun, but the One Who said that the greater Light should rule the day.

Moments flash upon us where we see through the curtain of temporal things into the world of the eternal. We see 'bright shoots of everlastingness' and have hope that this universe is not all there is. We have hope that our drunken souls will be sobered, and that we will make progress along the way.

Vaughan writes of travelling back to the time before his tongue could drip with sin, or before He walked far from his First Love. However, his last stanzas reveal that all he ever does is stagger backward like a drunkard. He hints that regression is not truly the right direction.

We cannot go back to some golden age, in our own life or in the world. We will not be 'returning to the garden of Eden' as I have heard even pastors declaim from the pulpit. No, we will be brought forward. God began man in a garden, but when we look at the trajectory of the Story, we see that he ends in a city. Not a city like we have ever known, however. This will be a city with a  River of Life, with trees whose leaves are for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22.1-2). We will be made better than we ever were. There is no retreat, only forward motion for us.

~ Johanna

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