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Filtering by Tag: eucatastrophe

Fairy Tales, for Life

Abby Jarvis

24 Fairy Tale1 It was a hot summer Saturday when I uncovered a book of fairy tales at a vintage shop. It sparked a conversation with the shopkeeper, who asked me to recommend fairy tale books for her two young daughters. They wanted stories about fairies, princesses, dragons, witches — stories about adventures and quests for true love and truth.

Not until later, as I mused over my nephew playing in the darkening yard, did I realize how precious that conversation had been. It seems a rare thing, now, for children to want fairy tales. In a world full of iPads, structured play dates, and a relentless focus on academics and test scores, it seems that fairytales are being crowded out of everyday life.

And what a shame that is! Academia certainly has its place, but the lessons to be learned from fairy tales are not lessons often found in test tubes or classrooms. Fairy stories lend us a belief in the magical, in the un-provable. They teach us that bad things happen to good people but good will triumph; that things are not always as they seem; the value of love, and bravery, and kindness; that dragons, as G.K. Chesterton once beautifully put it, exist and that they can be killed.

In a skeptical world, fairy tales foster a sense of wonder, an appreciation for the unexplained and the magical. They’re morality tales, practical warnings, glimpses of the magical world that exists in the “black boxes”science and logic can’t explain. Princes and witches and dragons aren’t just frivolous stories; they teach us to love, and to hope, and to fight for truth, and to make your own way in an uncertain world.

I hope my nephew reads fairy tales. I hope he looks under bushes for gnomes and into streams for sprites and pixies. I hope he seeks redemption in desperate situations, that he dreams of magic and of eucatastrophe -- the sudden, inexplicable happy ending. I hope he fights dragons and quests for Fairy only to discover, as Tolkien phrased it, “that sudden glimpse of the truth…a glimpse that is actually a ray of light through the very chinks of the universe about us."

Of Beauteous Saints

Joy and Matthew Steem

Lilith-Back-Cover-HR I find something indescribably haunting about the “woman most beautiful of all” in George MacDonald’s Lilith, for on her “stately countenance” rests a “right noble acquiescence” and “assurance, firm as the foundations of the universe, that all ... [is] as it should be." For me, the white-haired woman who captures the intrigue of the protagonist, Mr. Vane, is an image of what a physically and spiritually mature approach to being human might look like. In the gallery of my mind, her resplendent repose reflects an organic and wholesome response to her world rather than a hasty effort conceived in restlessness. Ultimately, when I think of the portrait of this pulchritudinous lady, I think of an individual who has overcome our inborn resentment of time; she is one who, as Byron penned, “walks in beauty.”

Indeed, the more I think of the characteristics of this unnamed lady, the more I am reminded of the saint which Gordon T. Smith depicts in Called to Be Saints: An Invitation to Christian Maturity. For Smith, in a saint, we encounter “beauty, integrity and congruence." He suggests these characteristics are not achieved by merely trying to emulate Christ’s life on earth. Nor are they attained by adhering to some sort of a moral code. In fact, he suggests that in striving for rigid perfection, we dislocate ourselves from a spiritual life that genuinely flourishes. Instead of toil, Smith advocates humble response; instead of fear, Smith draws our attention to hopeful faith; instead of proving ourselves through our work, Smith reminds us of Love’s work. Ultimately, he reminds us that He is the vine and we are the branches; there is great rest in understanding that instead of trying to be like Christ, our call is to realize we are in Christ.

Which brings me back to MacDonald’s lady: in her stately countenance, I see the reflection of a wisdom grounded in an understanding of interdependence and borne out in humility. In her noble acquiescence, I envision an approach to work that glorifies the divine; she is not frenetic or flustered, but rather content with what time she has been gifted to live in and work with. In her assurance, I visualize a life of joyfully ordered affections because she has an inkling of the depth, width, and breadth of the creator’s love. And so, in “this woman most beautiful of all,” I see a portrait of Smith’s saint; for at the marrow of Smith’s invitation is the reminder that our creator’s call does not only save us from, but saves us to: to an abundant life which results from restfully abiding in our maker.

Maybe, for me, she is an image of Smith’s saint because in time she has grown wiser, not just older. She has employed her minutes, hours, days and years not in despising time, but embracing its facilitation of her growth.  In nurturing a life-affirming delight in God’s good creation she has not indulged in ignorance of the horrific evil at work in the world. Rather, her peaceful gaze assures me that, like a true heroine, she has lived out her days in a grace and gratitude and wonder that holds fast to a belief in an impending Eucatastrophe: a swiftly advancing redemption so beautiful its event will bring forth tears of joy.