Commission

At the beginning of this year I paused, figurative pen mid-stroke, and finally looked up.

I had been writing online for fourteen years, first in snippets between college papers and events, then as updates during graduate school and my newlywed years, and in longer form essays and stories after Y and I moved across the country and became parents.

In the fresh quiet of a new January, I looked at the faces of my family and wondered if writing was the best use of the time that has been granted to me. I’d seen enough of social media to turn aside from the idea of garnering popularity through readership. It’s possible to find a following for virtually anything these days, but is the endeavor worthwhile? What about the deep responsibility that comes with speaking, however briefly, into the life of others: will the work offer anything of lasting value?

For the first time, I asked God if I should be writing, or doing something else. All my adult life, though I’d never realized it, I had gone about writing by stealing minutes here and there, scribbling and typing at my corner desk, trying to make sure it didn’t interfere with my commitments in Real Life. On some level I think I’d been afraid to ask. So when I did finally bring the matter before Him, it came — as it had to — from a place of contentment; I could hold it freely, open to the possibility that He might say no in this chapter.

The answer came in waves over the course of a month, a singular echo that kept resounding upon the same theme. The theme wasn’t “You have a gift; go and bless the world,” or “Write, but only after all the household chores and other duties are complete.” Overall the answer had very little to do with me. It was simply this: that it is time for all of us to take up what we have received, and to give freely out of it. That it is time for every part of the Body of Christ to come alive.

I read more that month than usual. In the process, I became enchanted again with the fine detail of language and of story, falling back in love with words the way I imagine a composer dreams of moving the sweep and the delicacy of human emotion onto grand staves, the way Y regards his finer woodworking tools and their ability to cut through wood like butter. I have words, and something that compels me to say that it’s worth working at fitting them together and honing their shape. To me they are a joy and a song that keep going the more I train my senses upon the sight and sound of the most beautiful Word that has ever spoken, and lived. Has anyone said that the making of our offerings is as much to find communion with Him as it is a service to others or a Kingdom duty? I wondered. Is this a part of what it is to love Him with all my mind? 

I seemed to have my answer, but part of it still lay blank. All right, I asked Him again; if I’ve heard You correctly, then — write what? 

There’s an oft-quoted passage from Mere Christianity that runs like this: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” I can’t remember why I looked up this excerpt one evening, but as I read on the force of the next few sentences struck me like a thunderclap.

“If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.”

– C.S. Lewis

These words plucked the note to which my life — all the years of growing up, and the home I keep now — and my heart had already been tuned.

In this world we are surrounded by intimations of great Joy, twinges of a “queer ache,” a strange and unquenched homesickness that rises in time of beauty and of sorrow. Somehow it seemed the most natural direction — as well as the loftiest hope — to dream of helping others to keep alive their desire for our true country, and the One who makes it everything that it is.

This space, therefore, is for stories about the “earthly blessings,” those foretastes of the Kingdom coming, and stories that fix our eyes upon the home they herald, drawn from both “real life” and the realm of enchanted things.

“The reintroduction of fairy tales to my redeemed imagination. . . was like holding the intricate crystal of Scripture up to the light, seeing it lovely and complete, and then discovering on the sidewalk a spray of refracted colors. The colors aren’t Scripture, nor are they the light behind it; rather, they’re an expression of the truth, born of the Light beyond, framed by the prism of revelation, and given expression on solid ground.

“The ache we feel when we read about Frodo’s voyage from the Grey Havens, the ache we feel when Lucy hears the thump of solid wood at the back of the wardrobe is telling us that, yes, there is another world. It’s a world so beautiful you can hardly see it through your tears. So let Christ dry your eyes and then look around you. The stories that awaken us are meant to awaken us not only to the reality to come, but to this world and its expectant glory.”

Andrew Peterson, “The Integrated Imagination: Fantasy in the Real World.”

Such stories are being told in many other places on this long path Christ-ward, from low glen to high knoll, and I’ve added my outpost among them — as if you friends who have read earlier posts didn’t already know! But sometimes it helps to articulate the vision of a place to keep it from being snowed under, so I’m glad to voice it again here.

Here’s to the grace that has brought us safe thus far, and the grace that will lead us home.

Here’s to the road, on which we are recounting the true tales of our destination even as we travel, singing the songs that echo down the valleys to us, and answering them with our own.

 

 

 


Photo: “Path to Heaven,” by detlef-kuonen via Flickr, 2011. Licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0; no changes made.

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