Stand and stare into the sky. Crane your neck back so far till the only thing within your gaze is crystal blue. Or maybe it’s crimson rouge, shot through with streaks of merigold, that fill your vision. Perhaps it’s the night itself opening like a chasm above, ready to engulf you and the earth in its maw. Hopelessly forbidding until tiny porcelain pinpricks spangle the upside-down surface.
Be overwhelmed by what you see. Look. And look deeply. Think on nothing else but yourself and the great vastness you are beholding.
Think of God, the Maker who created all above you.
Look, until you feel lost. Think, until you feel small. Ponder until it hurts. Until you are overcome, deluged, swamped.
Is it enough?
I can tell you: it isn’t enough. I’ve gone outside. Stared into the sky. Tried to comprehend, to encapsulate, the essence of the Creator and His world. Tried to understand who He is and who I am in the world He made. I always come away from this exercise inundated by the muchness of God and His cosmos. It is too much to make sense of on my own. But am I wrong for trying? I think not.
For years, I felt as if the books I read, the teachers I learned from, and the songs I hummed along to were trying and failing to explain what I desperately wanted to grasp. I believed, but, at times, I felt as though there was nothing to help my unbelief.
I quickly tired of rote explanations and ivory tower apologetics. I heard them a million times. Feeble attempts to answer: Why did God make the world? What is man’s purpose in it? Why is evil a thing? How can a loving God abide by the existence of Hell? The arguments and anecdotes used in reply felt as if they had no life. Logic — what we commonly consider to be logic — failed.
I believed there were answers to these “big questions” that were far more lively and colorful. That were dirty and bloody. That were rapturous and hilarious. If only we had eyes to see and ears to hear.
Around this time (my mid-to-late teenage years), I turned from a literary diet of biographies, how-to books, and “realistic” novels to science fiction and fantasy. I overdosed on Narnia and Middle-Earth, Redwall and Oz, Terabithia and old, mystical England. In such stories, I found a more musical interpretation of the world. An interpretation that was not bound to the common understanding of reality. An interpretation that invited wonder and beauty and magic into life.
It was during this time that I discovered the writing of N.D. Wilson through The 100 Cupboards. When I learned, a long time afterward, that he had written a non-fiction book, I was stoked. Here was a modern fantasy writer with some idea on how to explain this world — “The round kind. The spinning kind. The moist kind. The inhabited kind.”
Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World
Honestly, it is Wilson’s writing style that drew me in. He uses words in unusual and unexpected ways — ways that hit differently than all the other attempts at explaining the world. Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl speaks to a different side of the brain. Not the logical side, but the side that knows logic alone cannot explain the world or the people in it. The side that will believe a fantastical story. Because, Wilson argues, that is what the world is: a fantastical, illogical, crazy, roller-coaster of a story.
We cannot tie down the Infinite. We cannot fully exegete the Book that His Spirit bequeathed to our race. That is why any sufficient explanation of the world and our place in it must appeal to our hearts and souls and spirits in the way that good art appeals to us. It must make sense as a story. Because that is what we are living in. A story. His story. A complex, confusing melodrama chock-full with murder and babies being born, war and serenity, laughter and strangling sorrow.
(I could fill this blog post with quotes from the book, but I’d end up quoting over half the book. That’s how good it is.)
It is impossible to understand it all. We can only accept the gift of life that we have been given. We are brought forth on the stage. We have had our entrance, and one day we will have our exit. We must act gratefully and humbly, boldly and with flair. Why not perform well if we are to perform at all?
Tomorrow is not promised to us. And yet it is. Not the tomorrow of twenty-four hours. But the tomorrow of eternity. And, even then, we will remain characters in His Story. Only we will meet the Author in person and perform beside Him in a never-ending tale.