Imagine a poem written with such enormous three-dimensional words that we had to invent a smaller word to reference each of the big ones; that we had to rewrite the whole thing in shorthand, smashing it into two dimensions, just to talk about it. Or don’t imagine it. Look outside. Human language is our attempt at navigating God’s language; it is us running between the lines of His epic, climbing on the vowels and building houses out of the consonants.
Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl
N.D. Wilson’s Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl is one of those books that’s difficult to pull quotes from, because whenever I open it up again, I want to quote the entire thing line by line. It’s that good. Even the passage I posted above seems a bit paler for being isolated, but I love how Wilson visualizes the way we use language to grasp at truth. We might not even be able to see an entire word of God’s at once: just hear a consonant uttered in a mountain-scape, or a vowel in a lion’s roar. But our little words give us some methodology in approaching God’s.
As Wilson puts it, God’s language is “heavy poetry” that is “so potent that [it has] weight and mass and flavor.” His speech brings things into being out of nothingness. This mode of thinking seems to coincide naturally with how Jesus himself is referred to as “the Word” – a unique name given to no other member of the trinity. As in John 1:14 (NIV):
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.
I love this idea that Christ is God’s language in its purest form: his clearest way of communicating with us. When God chose to make his ultimate statement to the world, He didn’t give us a statement at all; He gave us Himself.
But He’s been speaking all along. In my eyes, the universe is its own distilled form of God’s language, from the births and deaths of billions of unobserved stars to the family of birds nesting on my third-story balcony right now. All of it tells me something about God’s character, just as any piece of art tells us something about the artist.
But in Jesus, God condensed the poem of the universe into a single person.
Aren’t we all armchair literary critics when it comes to this particular poem? We’re all trying to interpret it. Everyone has their own ideas about what this world means, if it means anything. Indeed, many people would say that our existence is nothing more than the scribblings of chance.
But I can’t help seeing the poetry everywhere I look. Even in the dark things, the ugly things, the sad things. It’s a drama. And in this drama, God always has the last word. The darkness gets usurped and pulled into His narrative, re-formed into some new possibility that wasn’t there before, shaped by the endless catharsis of story.
I’ve also noticed that the darkness tends to repeat itself; it can do nothing but plagiarize, twisting the narrative to fit a false image of the world, or to describe a false balance of power. It has nothing original to say or to speak into existence.
Meanwhile, when God speaks, He makes all things new.
Am I listening?
Tomorrow, according to the weather prophet, these clouds will crystallize and turn into six-pointed haiku, haiku like you’ve never seen, each subtly different, each capturing a different mood, a different beauty. Each priceless, a divine word. If I were infinite, I could read and love each one. I could remember the dance of each flake since the world was born. But I’m not infinite. And so I keep a shovel for when the haiku falls, a bag of salt to fend off the whispering storm.