Shadows of a Time to Come
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. Colossians 2:16-23 [ESV]
In the movie Shadowlands, Anthony Hopkins plays C. S. Lewis, the renowned author of “The Chronicles of Narnia” series, a bachelor and Oxford University professor who spends his free time debating with fellow academics at a pub. Although he seems entirely uninterested in love, Lewis agrees to marry Joy Gresham (Debra Winger), an American writer who is looking to secure British citizenship. Their arrangement soon becomes a romance, and, when Joy is diagnosed with terminal cancer, their bond grows even stronger. It’s a powerful and very edifying movie about suffering and the Christian hope.
Lewis was a gifted former atheist who was converted to the Christian faith and became a strong apologist for the faith he once renounced. One of my favorite Lewis quotes expresses how we live in the shadows of life without realizing it.
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” -― The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses
Paul point us to religious practices that have the appearance of godliness but have no power to shape the heart and bolster true faith and hope. These are shadows of something far greater; these celebrations, observances, and ceremonies. Grand pomp and glorious circumstance may tickle our imaginations. We may want to stay on the mountaintops of extraordinary experiences. We may wish to capture the winds of late spring or late autumn in hopes of letting it out in the dark days of winter or heat of summer. But those are only glimpses of a greater glory that awaits us with God in heaven.
We will join angel choirs, throngs of worshipers, elders, living creatures, seraphim and cherubim in praise to God on that Great Last Day. For his glorious grace will be fully realized. He will have his way in us: life, joy, peace, love will all be complete. No shadow. No quickly gone fleeting shadow. Reality. Unmoving. Unchanging. Joy. Life. Peace! Come, Lord Jesus!