Christian Life, Prose, Quotations, Spiritual Growth

A Call to Wonder: Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl

April 9, 2011
I’ve noticed in myself a great lack of amazement in my relationship with Christ. We get so caught up in the “work” of Christianity that we forget to sit back and simply stand (or fall flat on our faces) in awe of the work that God has and is doing. In his crowning epistle, Romans, Paul pauses in the midst of his very systematic exposition of the gospel to exult in the wonder of what God has done, declaring, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33 ESV) We need to take a note from the apostle and take a break from our Bible studies, our listening to sermons, or our reading of theological treatises and simply step back, stare at the heavens, and be in awe of this God that has created and redeemed us. This, I submit, will do as much if not more than reading another book in drawing our hearts up to appropriate delight in the Lord. Try it.


A book that I consistently come back to and absolutely love that reminds me of the amazingness of our Lord is N.D. Wilson’s Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl, a very fun dive into the swirling, beautiful, chaotic world that was created by the Word of God. I’ve placed below a small portion of one of my favorite sections. Read on, and if it lifts your heart up in praise to our Lord as it does for me, go and buy the book. It’s well worth 10 dollars or so!


I knew what God was saying. He gave me eyes so that I might see Him say it. He gave me ears so I could pick up the rhythms and clatters and rhymes. My skin can tighten, teased by His breathe, and send up bumps. My tongue can taste these words, the water, the pine needles, even the log that held me, but i cannot say them. We have given them names, shortcutting them with smaller sounds, sounds that fit in our mouths.


Tree, I say, and you know what I mean. You see one in your mind, or glance out your window and remember the much needed pruning. Tree, God says, and there is one. But He doesn’t say the word tree; He says the tree itself. He needs no shortcut. He’s not merely calling one into existence, though His voice creates. His voice is its existence. The thing in your yard, that mangy apple or towering spruce, that thing is not the referent of His word. It is His word and its referent. If He were to stop talking, it wouldn’t be there. Or do you think that its molecules and atoms and quarks are made up of some mysterious, self-sustaining matter that has always been and always will be, some infinite Play-Doh or hydrogen, holy be its name? Maybe there was an Adam Up Quark and an Eve Lepton? Maybe God found a bit of infinite matter and blew it up like a balloon, and now it sputters and spits while it swirls, sustaining itself. Maybe the balloon found itself and did its own huffing and puffing. Place your faith in the infinitude of matter if you like, and Chance will write the story. He’ll shuffle together pages, words, scribbles from different languages, other people’s noses, and small bits of string, run it all through a mulcher, and spray it into your yard. Enjoy your novel.

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.

See that thing?

What thing?

That huge pile of stones that climbs to where the air gets thin?

Yes. It has a lot of syllables.

Let’s call it a mountain, okay? When I say mountain, that’s what I mean. It’ll be easier than building one every time.

Is it supposed to blow up?

Let’s call it a volcano.



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