You and I want to wonder. We devour the stories that take us beyond ourselves, yet not entirely. The kings and the hobbits and the little lion men intrigue us by their simultaneous distance from us and their likeness to us, so we keep looking for the next song or story to teach us again. Their characters falter and fear, so we listen and believe them. They win in the end with all that is good, so our steps become livelier here and now. It is the fairy tale, the ancient record, and the song that is written to live beyond today that lifts our eyes to the truth that heaven is real and that we were made to make for God.
The word-wise poet and essayist Wendell Berry, who finds his delight in simple earth and hard work, tells of our particular post-industrialism need of this “song and story” to remind us of our abandoned innocence and to reveal the result of what man has wrought in our world, namely “punishment and ruins.” (“Damage”, What Are People For?) Yet it is not simply any tale or tune that will do. If the works are pride-induced and not fixed on higher glories, they are “shoddy” “wastes of life.” They are not even capable of stirring wonder, for the authors themselves have “reduce[d] the creation to novelty,” betraying it in the process. (“Healing”, What Are People For?)
Man, as God’s image-bearer, was made to make. He was shaped from the dust in order to discipline his steadily-formed hands in the echo of that same creative process. He cannot help but yearn for lasting glory, and he must make and seek tastes of that here if he is to escape despair. Some take patient pens and brushes to tell truth and taste wonder, while others are content to read and hear their tales while pulling plows or formulating Excel spreadsheets with the brilliance of minds and hands fashioned for God and the order of his universe. They are speaking truth, too, even if their minds suppress the thought of it. Good work still speaks of God and common grace prevails over unbelief.
The betrayal occurs when man sweats to erect a this-worldly glory with as much speed and grandeur as his creating self can muster. He is twisting his Maker’s design, marrying instant pleasure to certain death, while confident that he can perform the divorce in time and escape with full hands. He mocks the fairy tale and simple goodness for the very reason that they leave him waiting, wanting the kingdom and the weedless garden in an instant. Redemptive pain is not welcomed because future glory is not greater than the shiny things he sees today. His results teach us too. In him we see a warning against making goodness serve our desires right here, right now. We forget that the fairy tales were never about us in the end.
I shake my head at him, yet know that all good creators come from the same needy, blind lump. Maybe soon he will see and surrender to the Maker’s refining hands. I also remember that the beckon of the godless is for ease, for dropping my labors for cultivating good in exchange for sleep. It sounds enticing, but the wakened makers, especially those now basking in the real glory of what their best stories were only a whisper, are calling me to shake these limbs from numbness and pierce my world with their world’s sweetness through the clay in my hands; this clay that is a journal, a laptop, a home, a romance, a friendship, a bed, a piano, and a shopping cart.
Jesus is Lord of it all, and the hope is for any who are willing to wonder.