The Truer Land

flowers-139136937323p“The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.”
– G.K. Chesterton –

Fairy tales object to being outgrown.

I, at least, don’t seem able to do it.

Writers have long spoken this secret. C. S. Lewis avowed that a fairy tale not good enough to be read by an adult wasn’t good enough for anybody.

But sometimes you have to read for yourself, step into a glittering, strange, noble place and find out what it is really like from the inside.

Something about a brand new world for adventures–a whole creation, made up from the whirring cogs of a feracious mind–speaks to me.

New palettes for my imagination result, and suddenly nearly anything can happen, in a whirl of shimmering, phantasmal hues.

People can argue about the merits of so-called “fantasy.” Certainly, bad stories proliferate faster than the good stories. Wise people stand on both ends of the “fiction see-saw.” I don’t like to give up on stories, though. If stories–parables, they’re often called–were useful to Jesus, surely I am not presumptuous in taking them up. All I know is that the most fantastic things are often those that turn out to be True.

And the Truest things are often the most unbelievably, preposterously outlandish. And the most Wondrous things are the ones we most quickly forget.

What, a God who stoops to breathe air and trace earth and live in a flesh-tent as one of His created things?

Surely not, that bones long weather-cracked can stir with life?

What storytelling, that the Death of One could enact the Life of Many?

Many, Lord my God,
are the wonders you have done,
the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
they would be too many to declare.

– Psalm 40: 5, NIV –

But we’ve told ourselves the history until it’s all drabness. We’ve talked ourselves out of the wonder.

Tales of another world come down to ours, melt into nothing more than a sanitized Sunday School lesson. We push and shove on the idea of God until we think we’ve contained Him to our comfortable, clean, neat little box. Never mind that we’re sitting on it and hopping a little to get it to latch–like a suitcase overfilled for summer break.

Nevertheless, Truth exists, in all its unconventional glory. But perhaps we humans don’t quite know where to draw the boundaries sometimes? Perhaps we erase lines where God has written them, and inscribe them where He has never said they should be?

What is His line, This God who is Truth in flesh?

He is Truth.

C. S. Lewis has a delightful way of turning about our way of saying things, revealing that our little self-constructed “lines” are only fog curtains to reduce the mystery. We like to solve mysteries–maybe it’s because we like to control them. But God, fully uncontrollable, is full of mystery. And He tells fairy tales that are true.

“Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God’s myth where the others are men’s myths….Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call ‘real things’.”

So these books that open worlds?

They’re portals that take my concept of myth and turn it on edge.

For a little while, I give the author “the secret handshake”–agreeing to “suspend belief” for a moment so I can take in his new world for what it is. Fantasy. Make-believe.

And yet, at the end of the tale, I’m often met with unexpected truth–an old friend on a path I thought to be unexplored–, a thrumming Truth in this made-up world, pulsing with the life of what I’ve believed all along.

Not in the words. Not even in the faces of strange creatures or the curiosity of abnormal physics or familiarity of human nature.

In the echoes of certain stories, I feel that the deepest part of it is the Truest part. One element that supersedes fictional places or the boundaries of worlds. An other-worldly longing for Redemption.

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

And then, awakening in this Real world, with Real people, I see better.

After reading about things that I don’t expect to be true, I have fresh eyes to see the things that really are.

The point, after all, isn’t the contents of the finely-spun tale. It’s the lesson I learned in the reading–that, indeed, dragons can be killed.

Putting down a good story, I can see God’s Reality with fresh eyes.

Wise tales make the old seem new. They turn the oft-walked-by into a reason for joy. Good stories unmute the singing world so we too-deaf humans can hear the symphony at last.

Do you know how the clouds hang poised,
those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge? – Job 37:16, NIV

Have you wondered lately? About this Story of our Savior’s that’s being written all around and through and in us?

Let’s join the parade, the marching line of story-tellers that “tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done” (Psalm 78:4).

Setting down our fairy tales, let’s go out and take off our shoes.

Let us love…for He has poured out Love first, to us, to make us His.

And sing…for we are surrounded by hosts of witnesses, crying out His praise in a thousand languages that we have largely trained ourselves to ignore.

And wonder…for this is the Greatest of Stories and He has brought us about for this season, for His praise.

Beyond the Climax, when Jesus sets all right and inaugurates the True “Happily Ever After,” we will finally see.

“But this is precisely what is written: God has prepared things for those who love him that no eye has seen, or ear has heard, or that haven’t crossed the mind of any human being.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9, CEB

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
 – Gilbert K. Chesterton, emphasis mine –

See also: Psalm 40:5, Psalm 65:8, Daniel 4:2, Job 5:9, Psalm 17:7

Thank you to Public Domain Pictures and George Hodan for today’s photo.

Growing-Up Grace

“We are puzzled and bewildered whenever we see suffering in this world….

Amazing grace is no longer amazing to us.”

— R.C. Sproul —

dark-sky

Is it growing up to suddenly carry the hurt? Growing pain to suddenly begin knowing the pain? Does being an adult mean that I lose the mercifully given dream-glaze of childhood?

And why does it feel like this growing-upness has settled down thick on my soul?

Why is it that never before has the burden been so suffocating?

My strong-enough, wide-enough capabilities are now like narrow, powerless shoulders under a crushing yoke.

And yet I breathe. Oxygen sucks in bitter-sweet. Why can I still breathe in this pain-smoke that is smothering those to whom my heart clings, every brother and sister of them? How can the pain reach and wrench without laying even one cold, numb talon on me?

Is it growing up to suddenly feel the travail, to sense the birth-pangs that writhe this world?

How can I rejoice in Life when darkness is all I see?

By all means, I should praise God for the sunshine.

What if there isn’t any?

“Any man can sing in the day. When the cup is full, man draws inspiration from it…he is skillful who sings when there is not a ray of light to read by—who sings from his heart…O Thou chief musician, let us not remain songless because affliction is upon us, but tune Thou our lips the melody of thanksgiving.”

– Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, Oct. 19th, Evening –

And yet, my throat burns songless. How can I sing past the ache-knot?

Today a friend calls and says it is good new and bad news. My heart immediately stills, that heart drop-out that shoots up a prayer without words. O God, help me know what to say. Help her. Help us breathe.

She says it’s not her, it’s a friend. A tumor, she says. A word shapes in my head—cancer. I wish with a numb heart that it’s not so.

I lay on the couch, phone cradled to my chin, held close as I wish I could hold my friend. A wish to tell her its okay, it will all be fine.

She pours out the story, of all the pain she’s surrounded with. She’s drowning in it—the frustration of why. Why my friends? Why now? Why all at once?

God, why?

And then my sweet friend confesses she’s tired of praying? Is it, after all, doing any good?

So I push away my own sense of all the world-crumblings near and clench my heart around her words. She’s weary in the battle.

So I’ll go in for her. O God, hear me.

She’s panting, aching for friends’ pain that she can’t push prayers through.

Hold on, I want to say. He’s there. Just keep praying.

The line soon clicked empty and as I returned the phone to its charger I knew I couldn’t solve her pain.

But I could pray. I remembered lines that could keep me breathing in and out. Ann Voskamp, in her poetic, arresting voice, wrote about her hope, and now I mull over it again:

“I wonder too…if the rent in the canvas of our life backdrop, the losses that puncture our world, our own emptiness, might actually become places to see.

To see through to God.

That that which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To Him. To the God whom we endlessly crave.”

– Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p. 22 –

In her blog, this dear sister wrote,

“Grace is not soft or trite—Grace is what saves and grace is what transforms. Grace isn’t the weakness of a Christian—grace is the completeness of a Christian. Grace isn’t ever a paltry thing—Grace is always the very power of God….The power of God to save and to stand, to give and forgive, to breathe and believe, to laugh and love and wring the last little bit of living out of all the days under the sky. Grace is what we need more than the very air or water; grace is what is necessary for life: it’s His very grace that needs to be sufficient today, it is His very grace that makes today sustainable.”

We have our hands on something that can rock a moaning world. We have to believe it. We have to possess it. We have to live it.

And then, we give it away. Think this, sisters: We were not meant to hoard grace.

“All the paths of the Lord are loving and faithful” (Psalm 25:10). I have pondered this verse lately and have found that it feeds my spirit. All does not mean “all—except the paths I am walking in now,” or “nearly all—except this especially difficult and painful path.” All must mean all. So your path with its unexplained sorrow or turmoil, and mine with its sharp flints and briers—and both our paths, with their unexplained perplexity, their sheer mystery—they are His paths, on which he will show himself loving and faithful. Nothing else; nothing less.”

– Amy Carmichael –

I’m not sure why I didn’t see it before, in John 11. Martha, grieving, devoted Martha, trusts Jesus through that body and soul-tearing event called death that snatched her brother away. Can you hear her hoarse, trusting whisper?

“Even now I know that whatever you ask your Father he will give it to you.”

What I so often gloss over, miss in the pace of reading and living, is the glory of the next words.

Martha says, “I know he will be raised in the resurrection in the last day.”

But then, glorious consummation of thousands of years of hope and longing and death-cries—Jesus must have looked at her with a beautiful Kingliness in His eyes.

“I am the Resurrection and the Life.”

My soul, why do you ever stop wondering? Not wallowing in the death, but wondering in the Life? Why do you ever tire of hearing and glorying in this?

My Savior IS Life. I don’t have to fear anything. I don’t have to  hesitate when He calls, wonder when He speaks.

In His Life, I have life.

“What grace is mine that He who dwells in endless light
Called through the night to find my distant soul
And from his scars poured mercy that would plead for me
That I might live and in his name be known

What grace is mine to know His breath alive in me
Beneath his wings my wakened soul may soar
All fear can flee for death’s dark night is overcome
My Saviour lives and reigns forevermore

So I will go wherever He is calling me
I lose my life to find my life in Him
I give my all to gain the hope that never dies
I bow my heart, take up my cross and follow Him.”

– “What Grace Is Mine,” by Keith and Kristyn Getty –

Let us press on in the dark, because the night is far spent, and the day is at hand. The Light has arisen in our hearts.

We aren’t meant to be the victims of cruel fate. We are meant to shine in darkness, to keep emitting the light of grace.

Because His Grace is ours for living.

“Shouldn’t we suppose that many of our most painful ordeals will look quite different a million years from now, as we recall them on the New Earth? What if one day we discover that God has wasted nothing in our life on Earth? What if we see that every agony was part of giving birth to an eternal joy?”

— Randy Alcorn —

With always-love, Shelbie