Having just finished re-reading Sheldon Vanauken’s A Severe Mercy, I am in deep-thinking mode. The following notes are friends-only, but even for my friends here, I’m not actually writing it for you… it’s all for my own thinking, and I know I won’t “lose it” if I put it here. So, you can read on if you want, but I’m really just talking to myself. EDIT: At length.


—Van’s belief that Christ’s breaching of The Shining Barrier left it vulnerable to other breaches … not so sure. In a sense, I can see that possibility, but it does not follow that Christ’s breach through the Barrier *invited* others, and that’s almost the idea I get from Van. *re-read that section again and think further*

—The Severe Mercy. Agreed.

—There *must* be a path to a Divine Shining Barrier. The rejection of self and the embrace of “us;” the conscious and deliberate “sharing” to sustain “inloveness” – these ring so very true. The element of The Shining Barrier that can conflict with faith in and devotion to Christ is the “Appeal to Love” – that the ultimate question being “what is best for our love.” Obviously, as believers, there is a higher appeal. I don’t agree with Vanauken that “what is best for *service*” is a higher appeal than “what is best for our love.” The godly husband and wife relationship comes before service to the rest of the Body of Christ, and before ministry to the unbelieving world. As a picture of Christ and the church, the marriage relationship comes before all other human relationships/responsibilities. However, “what would Christ have us do” is the ultimate appeal (and in reference to the Body of Christ and to the unbelieving world, Christ would have us serve the Body and witness to the world – just with the proper priorities).

So what is the blueprint for a Divine Shining Barrier? Sharing, rejection of self – yes. The “Cup of Water in the Night.” These are very Biblical. Obviously, Biblical instructions regarding the roles of husbands and wives must be followed if the ultimate question is “what would Christ have us do?” But how to reconcile devotion to the Divine Lover with devotion to our “one flesh” love on earth? Interestingly, in my mind, there doesn’t seem to be much to reconcile. Perhaps that’s because I grew up living with such an amazing example of the Divine Shining Barrier… (hmmm…. ) I also like the triangle illustration – that if husband and wife are the two bottom corners of a triangle and God is the top, there is no conflict – closeness to Him gets you closer to each other.

Blueprints aside, The Shining Barrier, even the pagan version initially set up by Van and Davey, is dependent on the commitment of two people. If one person rejects or flags in his or her devotion to The Barrier, it will fall. Van and Davy did not have this occur in their self-described “pagan” days, but once Christ had breached the Barrier…

Conflict seems to come when one spouse is “moving heavenward” at a faster pace or with greater devotion than the other. If both are moving together, they are gaining closeness to the Father and a more intimate oneness with each other than the “pagan” Van and Davey could have imagined. But if one is moving heavenward and the other is stagnant, there will be, as Van discovered, jealousy and its nasty separateness. The problem is that synchronized heavenward motion seems to be rarity. Inevitably, spouses move heavenward at different paces. Hence, the breakdown of the Shining Barrier, the collapse of the Fairytale.

The problem with this aspect of the Shining Barrier mentality is its dependence on the other spouse to maintain their commitments – to the marriage, to the Shining Barrier, to the Divine Lover. We cannot (literally – we Cannot) dictate the actions/thoughts/attitudes of our spouse (or anyone else, for that matter!) We are only able to look heavenward and cry out, “By Your Grace, oh precious Father, I commit myself to Your will and way in me.”

I’m realizing that I stated earlier that there *must* be a path to the Divine Shining Barrier. But a Shining Barrier that is dependent upon two humans is destined to fall eventually. Perhaps that is what Lewis meant when he told Van that the happiness of youthful love “must always be lost in some way: every merely natural love has to be crucified before it can achieve resurrection and the happy old couples have come through a difficult death and re-birth. But far more have missed the re-birth.”

And that, I suppose, is what Beyond the Fairytale is all about. The death and re-birth. And, perhaps, how that death and re-birth can happen internally, often truly known only to an individual and the Creator.

And from there, I must mull and pray some more…

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