A few nights ago, I dreamed of being at a feast with long tables filled with people from all parts of my life. Members of our adopted Central Asian culture sat at one end of the room, preparing for a rousing musical number, right up against beloved family and friends from our home countries. This combination produced a kind of poignant longing in the dream that was palpable. As I woke up, the phrase “comes round the age of gold…” lingered in my sleep-fogged mind.
It took me a while to locate the source, but eventually I realized it was a line from “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” which I taught our homeschool co-op choir at Christmastime. The sweep and swing of the melody suited their young voices, though the words are heavy and ancient, aching with deep promise.
For lo! the days are hastening on
By prophet bards foretold,
When, with the ever circling years
Shall come the age of gold;
When Peace shall over all the earth,
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song,
Which now the angels sing. 
I’m longing for it. I want to feel the age of gold stealing subtly and irresistibly over the world like the warm, golden green of summer, like the Golden Age of Narnia when winter was ended and all was peace, and the Kings and Queens ruled under the Great Emperor from over the sea.
Each of us has a potential stake in the age of gold. One end is already fastened in our souls; I felt mine twinge tonight when I scrolled past a video from last June of my daughter, wandering through the garden singing to her beautiful white cat with the sapphire eyes, who died just before Christmas. The point of the stake gouged, my heart constricted, and my eyes stung gazing at the screen, as I was filled with sudden longing to pierce through that veil that separates this reality from the next, the seemingly real from the really Real.
C.S. Lewis writes of this kind of experience in Surprised by Joy, saying that joy “might almost equally well be called a particular kind of unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want.” 
Yes. It is the kind I want. Searching for it, I scroll through more videos of that happy summer, drinking in my daughter’s complete happiness, the vivid blooms, the unconcerned feline moving inside the captured moment as though it would last forever. It didn’t; I only remember that moment because it’s stored on my hard drive. Until stumbling across it tonight, I forgot that moment ever happened. But here it is, on my screen. I can smell the spicy marigolds, feel Sapphire’s fur on my skin. In one sense it is “eternal” because I preserved it on my computer; but in another deeper sense, it is eternal because that indescribable golden thing which is the essence of the girl, the cat, and the flowers will last forever — a taste of what the actual age of gold will be like.
When my heart aches watching a captured moment of pure joy, or breaks over the wrongness of a cat’s soft body, warm and lithe, being laid stiffly in cold ground, I am sensing things as they truly are. For a brief second as the sharp pang of the really Real pierces my heart, the physical things around me fade and grow shadowy. Life, while it is happening, seems impossible it should ever end — because it was intended to last forever. Death is a devastating, temporary interruption we instinctively know was not part of the original Design.
Thrilling to life and grieving death, my heart is awake to the age of gold even while I live here in the shadowlands. Like the sweet tang of a fine balsamic vinegar, I briefly taste the next Reality in the midst of this one, the coming New Earth that will be mine if I am Christ’s. When I watched the recent coronation of King Charles III, various commentators described the specific moments when they welled up with emotion. Whether or not they were aware that we’re all actually made for another world, we resonated together like tuning forks sounding pitch and overtone simultaneously. The ancient ceremony to crown the human king, bursting with silver trumpets and rich symbolism, was originally intended to produce overtones heralding the King of kings in all His glory, who will personally usher in the age of gold.
The fact that we possess eternal souls proves human beings were made for a world even more Real than this one, a world that won’t fade, spoil, break, die, or perish, “kept in heaven for you… an inheritance…” (1 Peter 1:4, ESV). Describing an imagined trip to heaven, Lewis writes,
“The grass, hard as diamonds to my unsubstantial feet, made me feel as if I were walking on wrinkled rock, and I suffered pains like those of the mermaid in Hans Anderson. A bird ran across in front of me and I envied it. It belonged to that country and was as real as the grass. It could bend the stalks and spatter itself with dew.” The light, the grass, the trees were “made of some different substance, so much solider than things in our country that men were ghosts by comparison.” 
When I accept by faith the claim God makes on me through Christ, He cleanses me to be His dwelling, and places His stake — sign — seal in my soul, the presence of His own Holy Spirit. He is the beginning of the New Creation in my heart, and as He inhabits and fills me, the qualities of the age of gold begin to grow in my life. He strengthens me each day, making me more Real and less shadow all the time. One day (may it be soon!) all shadows will dissolve away, and the really Real will fully arrive in all its glorious, solid substance, and then I too will become fully, gloriously Real, able to “bend the stalks and spatter myself with dew.”
“‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ [the Rabbit] asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time…”’ 
In that video on my computer, the gold-green month of June glows with a foretaste of the inheritance in which each human is made to have a stake. But the shadow-kingdom wars every day with the Real one, and the kingdom we throw our lot in with now, during our “eighty, if we have the strength” (Psalm 90:10, NIV) is the one we own a stake in forever.
The Holy Spirit’s presence inside of me is the sign of my stake in the New Creation, the proof of my acceptance of the purpose for which I was made: to one day shed the shadows forever and become Real. In his letter to the Ephesian believers Paul reminds them they have been “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory…” (Eph 1:13-14, ESV, emphasis mine).
As hard as it is for me to grasp, just as much as God Himself and all He has are my inheritance, I — along with every other soul who claims their stake in the age of gold — am also His inheritance, the Bride of His Son. Paul continues, “…having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints” (Eph 1:18, ESV, emphasis mine).
Incredibly I discover that I, in my Realest form, will be an essential ingredient of the age of gold, along with the indefinable pith we sense at the heart of all beauty, and the glorious Prince of Peace who shall fling His ancient splendors over all the Earth. He will be mine, and I will be His, forever. The Holy Spirit glowing warmly within me is the sign and seal of that really Real: the treasure of great price, the downpayment of the age of gold.
 Sears, Edmund Hamilton. The Christian Register. Boston, 1849.
 Lewis, C.S. Surprised by Joy. Harcourt Brace & Company, San Diego, 1955. (18)
 Lewis, C.S. The Great Divorce. Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1946. (31)
 Bianco, Margery Williams. The Velveteen Rabbit. Egmont Books, London, 2004.
The featured image is courtesy of Lancia E. Smith and is used with her glad permission for Cultivating.
A writer, songwriter, and amateur music producer, Carolyn holds a Bachelor of Music from Wheaton College, where she pursued her twin passions for music and spiritual formation. Living overseas for the past twenty years has given her a keen interest in the connections between the inner life, the craft of making, and the art of sojourning, especially how tending her own soul affects her ability to tend the souls of others. Carolyn has contributed to an anthology of pandemic art, Beauty from Brokenness, and to Yet We Still Hope, a collection of honest, vulnerable essays by women serving overseas. You can connect with Carolyn and find her music and resources for the sojourning life at www.carolynbroughton.com.
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