When I was in 7th grade, I would slip a fantasy novel over the math textbook I was supposed to
be working through, and read the books I wanted to read during class. C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and
Robert Jordan kept me company while I should have been learning long division or whatever it
is that 7th graders should be learning in math class.
At the time, I felt like I was escaping boring numbers and running towards a dozen different
worlds which were more interesting, more exciting, and in which, as far as I knew, no math was
ever done. Each world was varied and beautiful. Each set of characters told me who to be, and
how to grow into a reasonable and brave sort of adult. At the time though, I didn’t care about
being shaped into anything, other than someone who didn’t have to do math. (Spoiler alert: If
you just get a liberal arts degree, you can in fact become that sort of someone.)
That’s what we believe fantasy books are for, so often. To escape. To get away from our normal
lives. To be fair, they are not a bad tool for that. When my toddler is asleep, and my house is
mostly clean (and sometimes less than mostly clean), I’ve certainly left my noisy life behind to
read something that doesn’t feel like cleaning the house or making sure everyone has their
lunch for the day.
Every good book must end though. Many nights in a good book have begun at 8:00 PM as my
child fell asleep. I always thought it would end at 10:00 PM but it very nearly always stretched
to midnight as I sought adventure in another world. Knowing my toddler would be awake again
soon forced me to leave behind my visitation.
When I leave the world I’ve visited for a few hours, I miss it.
I miss the magic of it. I miss the world that was so carefully established, the characters with
their life-changing arcs, and the villain’s sound defeat that feel so different from my every day
I miss the London Underground, I miss Hogsmeade and the sound of the crowds at a Quidditch
Match, and I miss the shattered plains. I miss Narnia and a very brave mouse. I miss the
Winespring Inn and even the White Tower.
It may feel like all I’m describing is sentimentality or a desire for more escape, or even a
thoughtfulness about the sort of writing that most often happens in the fantasy and sci-fi
writing genres, but I don’t believe that’s true. Those things may be partially true, but it goes
If you’ve felt that way, I don’t believe we’re being simply nostalgic.
I don’t think we’re seeking escapism.
I think we’re doing some holy remembering.
You are remembering what is true, beautiful, and pure about the world, as you read about
You are remembering that there are true adventures to be had, a meaningful purpose to
pursue, terrifying enemies to be dealt with, and that even the smallest and slowest of
characters can grow into something previously unforeseen. We hear echoes of our own true
story in the fantasies we dream up.
For instance, If I were to invite you into a world in which something far beyond us created much
of what we know, a world in which snakes talked and a great evil beset a fairly decent group of
people, what would would you suppose I’d be extending an invitation towards? Depending on
what you’ve read, you’d perhaps think of Harry Potter, and the snake in the zoo whispering to
Harry, or you might think of Eden.
If I were to call you and ask you to come away with me to a place where a mostly unseen
enemy assailed a country who’s true king had not returned yet to rule and reign, many of us
would think of the metanarrative of the Bible. Many others would think of Tolkien’s returning
When I set down my copy of Way Of Kings or any of the Mistborn volumes, by Brandon
Sanderson I miss magic. I want to fly, and I want to shoot metal coins from my hands at my
enemies. Okay, honestly, I don’t really have enemies, but it sounds like a good time. I’d like to
be able to sense someone’s past by swallowing gold, and even more impressively, I’d like to live
every day with a deep purpose and sense of adventure.
Everyone wants to experience love that doesn’t fail.
Everyone wants to see evil defeated permanently.
Everyone wants to see beyond our own horizon.
Everyone wants to experience magic and something beyond themselves.
Those longings have been placed in us since the beginning. When we read beautiful stories and
wish they were true, we’re really hoping that the Gospel is true. We’re hoping that what God
says about humanity being redeemed by a love that doesn’t fail, that invites us into something
far wilder than we can imagine, is true.
The best of books actually engage not just my mind in creatively imagining an exciting plot, but
my heart, in creatively imagining who God might be making me into, and who He might be
calling me to become.
It’s a longing that can be temporarily filled with the penmanship of the creatively called. It’s a
longing that can only be permanently filled in the utter reality of the kingdom fully realized.
When you set down that book around midnight tonight, and you realize that a piece of you
wishes you could visit the place you’ve read about, it might be worth considering what it is
you’re actually missing.
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