When I Grow Up image

When I Grow Up

Whenever I teach on eschatology, someone asks me about sex. I get fairly passionate about the new creation, and do my best to paint it in vivid colours and present something of the joy and wonder we will experience when we get there. But someone—usually, in my experience, a young man—will always ask whether, or how, the new creation can be fully joyful and satisfying without sex. (I'm not ridiculing the question, by the way; it's a genuine one, and one that I used to ask myself.)

C. S. Lewis had a characteristically thoughtful and oft-quoted response:

I think our present outlook might be like that of a small boy who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure, should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time. On receiving the answer ‘No,’ he might regard the absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality. In vain would you tell him that the reason why lovers in their raptures don’t bother about chocolates is that they have something better to think of. The boy knows chocolate: he does not know the positive thing that excludes it. We are in the same position. We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in Heaven, will leave no room for it.

That analogy came to mind as I was listening to the Matilda soundtrack the other day. In one of the musical’s best numbers, “When I Grow Up,” a group of children imagine what they will do when they are adults, and (unsurprisingly) imagine it as a permanent opportunity to do what children want to do:

And when I grow up,
I will eat sweets everyday on the way to work,
and I will go to bed late every night.
And I will wake up when the sun comes up,
and I will watch cartoons until my eyes go square,
and I won’t care,
because I’ll be all grown up.

It doesn’t occur to them—or, in eschatological terms, to us—that maturity causes our desires to change. That’s what is so charming about the song; we watch it and remember what it is like to imagine the future as nothing but an exaggerated present, and then we get to appreciate again that there are greater pleasures than eating sweets and watching television.

Desires do change, and they intensify in response to greater maturity and greater pleasures, and that makes the new creation immeasurably more than we can ask or think. Praise God for that.

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