I like to end my nightly prayers by saying, “Good night, Jesus. Good night, Mary. I love you. I’ll see you soon.”
In one of the Narnia books, Aslan, the lion who is the Christ-figure in the story, tells the children that something good is going to happen “soon.” The children wonder when “soon” will be. Another character tells them, “To him all things are soon.” (1)
It is hard for us to understand how short, and how precious, our time on earth is compared to the eternity that awaits us. But remembering that we are going to see Jesus soon is very beneficial to our spiritual growth. Soon could be four weeks or forty years, but the day is most assuredly coming, and could come at any time. And on that day, we will find ourselves wildly indifferent to so many of the things that worry us now.
There is a famous experiment involving five year olds and marshmallows. Researchers gave each child in the study a marshmallow, and told them that if they waited fifteen minutes to eat it, they could have a second one. Inevitably, some kids couldn’t wait and ate the first marshmallow, but some resisted for the fifteen minutes and were rewarded with a second marshmallow. As the researchers tracked the kids over time, they found that the kids who waited were more successful in life than those who couldn’t wait.
There’s more to the story. As other researchers dug further, they found that the kids who waited were usually from more affluent backgrounds. The kids had a reasonable expectation that the person who promised them a second marshmallow would make good on that promise. The kids from lower-income homes didn’t have the same expectation. They had learned that treats were a rarity, and that you took one when you had the chance.
So how does this apply to Jesus? Well, what is the big reward we are promised? It’s heaven – to see God face-to-face and experience His love and joy in all its fullness. Who is making this promise? Jesus, God’s beloved son.
And is Jesus trustworthy? Can we believe His promises?
Can we trust that the One who gave His life for us on the cross truly loves us? Can we trust that the One who rose from the dead to glory will also lift us up to eternal life?
Jesus had a better analogy for the rewards of perseverance than the marshmallow test:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy. When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world. So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” (John 16:20-22)
Prayer helps us remember these things so that we can be faithful to His will throughout the day, even (no, especially) when it is most difficult. We will see Him soon, and this knowledge should produce a reverent fear, but also a hopeful trust in His mercy.
(1) If memory serves, I believe this passage is in Lewis’ fifth Narnia book, The Horse and His Boy.
Clarification: In writing about the First Saturdays devotion, I speculated that the requirements to pray the Rosary and meditate for fifteen minutes on the mysteries of the Rosary could be combined. The Lord corrected me (I say this because I wasn’t looking for an answer, but I found it in a book I happened to pick up, Father Don Calloway’s Under the Mantle): these are two separate requirements of the devotion.
Image: Christ the King detail from the Ghent Altarpiece by Jan van Eyck (downloaded from Wikipedia Commons).