In 1933 James Hilton wrote his intriguing novel, “Lost Horizon.” It was a remarkable story about Shangri-la, a legendary place of a mystical lamasery in the Hulan Mountains of Tibet.
In the novel a British diplomat, Hugh Conway, escaping his post in a dangerous part of India, was a passenger on a plane that was hijacked and crashed in the mountains. At the crash a Chinese man named Chang led Conway and three other passengers on a mysterious path through the snow covered mountains to an unbelievable lush and green valley called Shangri-la. Surprised, but delighted, Hugh Conway and his fellow travelers comfortably settled in this remarkable place. In almost every way it was a perfect environment, a Paradise beyond description.
However, a shocking reality was soon discovered. All those in Shangri-la lived long beyond normal age. They aged extremely slowly. It was hard to tell how long the people had been around because they looked so young. There was one strange circumstance to this longevity of life in Shangri-la. If anyone chose to leave this paradise, their real age quickly overwhelmed them and they died soon after their departure.
A French friar, Perrault, who had supposedly come to the place in 1719 and became the head Lama, was now (in 1930) looking for a successor. Conway was the chosen one and was given charge of Shangri-la as its new lama.
One of Conway’s associates, Charles Mallinson, felt this paradise was more a curse than a blessing. He wanted to leave and pushed Hugh to guide him out through the secret mountain passage. Hugh, joined by one of the beautiful, young looking women, Lo-Tsen, agreed to lead Mallinson out.
Conway was stricken with amnesia and was hospitalized in China. When his memory returned, he told his story to a writer, Rutherford, who gave his manuscript to a narrator and the unbelievable story was told. The writer saw Conway leaving China and believed he was going in search of that special mountain trail that would take him back to Shangri-la.
In 1937 Frank Capra made a movie of Hilton’s “Lost Horizon” starring Ronald Coleman, Jane Wyatt and Edward Everett Horton. It was filmed, not in the mountains of Tibet, but in Sherwood Forest and Palm Springs, California.
Hilton captured something that many look for. There is a belief and longing for a “Paradise.” Somewhere there must be a place better than the present one of trouble and turmoil. We never stop looking for a solution that will reverse aging and all its attendant issues. Beyond the cold and rugged path there must be a warm, lush valley where all is perfect.
John 14:1-3 is a biblical description of our coming Paradise. From the mouth of Christ come the words, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you. And I go and prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
John speaks of this in Revelation 21, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Paradise was lost through original sin in Eden’s Garden. Paradise was regained in Gethsemane’s Garden 20 Centuries ago as the Lord made His choice of “not my will but Thine be done,” walked up Golgotha’s Hill to be crucified, rose again in validation of His Great Love so we could find our “Lost Horizon.” To many this is the “Lost Horizon.” But it can be found. Change can come. We can take the step today. It can happen now!
Till next time,
-Don Johnson, Kirby Pines Chaplain