The Bones of the Heroes Do Not Break

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 
persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed...

I have just finished reading two remarkable pieces of literature, the first being a collection of three essays by William Hendriksen called Lectures on the Last Things, and (with the kind of providential timing that feels like being stabbed), Tales of the New Creation, an essay by Pete Peterson. With my head buzzing with all these thoughts, and with the timeline of my novels which I am working on even until now, I naturally produced a blog post.
[T.S. Eliot] says that “no poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone.” He argues that art is, by necessity “traditional,” that new works are predicated upon the old, each new poet standing upon the bones of the dead.
The dead are not lost to us.   The Scriptures are full of this thought: a great cloud of witnesses observe our time, the pre-incarnation saints await the gathering in of the elect of the current age, the righteous continually proclaim God's glory before his throne, and the Church Militant has behind it the steady account of the faithful saints who have lived and hoped and died in Christ.  In our place, we live and hope and will die in Christ also, leaving behind a testament to our children that the God of our fathers remains God With Us in every age.  This is a truth which should be woven into the fabric of our beings, for it is part of the fabric which weaves us all together. 

"Modern" philosophy has tried hard to divorce the individual (and has made great strides toward divorcing the individual) from all that gives him definition.  We are a recent series of generations defined by having been broken adrift.  There is no up, there is no down, there are no sins of our fathers, no righteous steps in which to follow.  Chesterton rightly pointed out that the man who has no boundaries is the man truly imprisoned: he has no frame of reference, no universe in which to hang the sphere of his mind.  But we of all people, a people composed across the span of time, have most cause to look out upon the universe with a sense of familiarity and ownership.  Numerous generations of men have gone before us in whom was shaped the mind of Christ, and through their eyes, their words, their creative spirits, we also can see further into the scope of God's self-revelation.
The world needs to know that the road is taking us somewhere. Pain and loneliness and suffering and hatred will not have the last word. What is the Cross if not a signpost on which is written “Come this way. Come over this hill?”
Reality is best understood, in my opinion, as an actual story being written (or that has been written) to disclose to the characters the person of their author - and no better story has ever been constructed, all other stories being horribly shabby but heartfelt offerings in mimic tribute to it.  But it is the fact that we continue to make those tributes that amazes me.  In the face of the enormous scope of God's progressive revelation, with that drive which perhaps prompted (if I may put it that way) God himself to make this Story, we must write our imitation of it.  We must steal the voices of our fathers, we must paint with the blood of our Hero, we must plot as he plotted, reveal as he revealed, painting pictures as we do so of some aspect of God's nature.  We are all possessed of multifaceted minds, no one man quite seeing the same aspect the same way: and with the cumulative conversation of the millions of minds which have come before us, we add our own words and, in doing so, add a little to the picture of our God for our children to see.  Our fathers are not dead.  Our children wait for our direction.  Cain once asked of God if he was supposed to be his dead brother's keeper: in the rest of time God has taken his time to assure him that he is.  Our fathers have left behind great grace; we are the keepers of that grace, and we pass it on to our descendants.

Like my fathers I am looking for a home 
Looking for a home beyond the sea 
So be my God and guide me 
Till I lie beneath these hills 
Then let the great God of my fathers 
Be the great God of my children still

We are not alone.  Not only is God continually with us, we have an honorable lineage to harken back to, a divine pedigree, and a hope of a life to come.  Who would not be charged with this magnificent truth at all times?  When Christian came upon Simple, Sloth, and Presumption with their ankles fettered, sleeping without seemingly a care in the world, he cried out to them to take thought for their souls and to seek relief.  Our ankles have been sprung, our eyes opened, our hearts set free.  We look forward and back upon numerous years of God's faithfulness, upon men who have feared the wrath of God and made provision for the well-being of their souls.  We must do likewise, and leave behind us such exhortations as Christian himself found on the King's Highway, warning travelers of danger, and building up their spirits with courage.

The signposts have been left to us.  Acquaint yourself with them; acquaint your children with them.  This life is one of a number of things for all people: a cup of wrath filled up to drink, a cup of grace with which to be anointed, a daily journey into the nature of God, or a determined rebellion of man against his maker.  In the economy of the Kingdom, we do our dealings in grace: take care that you use wisely what grace is given in the signposts, and, rather than burying that grace for fear of losing it ("...because you are an exacting man..."), invest it in further grace and further signposts for those to come.  The righteous dead will be rewarded and their deeds do not go unmarked by God.
we are all of us in a race and a war. I write these things to you so that you may not stumble.

5 ripostes:

  1. Mmmhmmm. I read Pete Peterson's essay and was quietened by it. What you say is so true: I think we have the responsibility (responsibility? privilege?) to display in our books signposts for other people on the Way and off the Way, extending the grace given us.

  2. I keep returning to this post and re-reading it in hopes I'll find something more substantial to say, but to be perfectly honest, I have little at all to add. I thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed it, though, and I'll definitely flip back to it from time to time when I need a reminder. I'll also add that we often, in our literature portray Christ as a soft, loving creature. He is not soft. He is Fire, purification. He is nothing small and gentle to be handled; He doesn't simply love us: He is love. I think we too often forget that we are at His undeserved mercy. It's that that makes his love so infinitely more powerful.

  3. At his undeserved mercy. A great deal of clarity is packed up in that simple phrase, Bree. Thank you for putting it that way.

  4. I wrote a comment... I lost it, and now I have sort of forgotten what I wanted to say.

    Only I know that this post really struck a chord in me very powerfully and inspired me greatly.
    So thank you very much!

  5. I am sorry you lost your comment! That's happened to me before too. But as to the post, you're welcome! I'm glad you liked it. :)