This is a throwback to my senior year in high school, taking vigorous notes under the tutelage of a man named George Grant. Well, sort of tutelage. I had to listen to his lectures on video. And I could not be more thankful.
One lecture in particular, Grant spent teaching on the era of Christendom (or what is more commonly referred to as the Middle Ages/Dark Ages). He was painting a picture for his listeners, a picture that portrayed the flourishing of both Christianity AND culture.
Light shone through these tiny European towns in such a way, that they influenced their world at large. In fact, even the way they constructed the geographical nature of their towns, reflected their earth shattering worldview. The church resided in the center of town, the genesis and life source for all color, creativity, science, and art.
Grant went on to say that the driving force behind this flourishing era was their understanding and desire in bringing heaven to earth . . . incarnation.
There was no separation between the secular and the sacred. There was no gap, there was no distinction or compartmentalization. There was no "higher calling." Rather your vocation, your music, your books, your family, your garden, your friends, your animals . . . all of it existed as a way to bring about what God intended our lives to be . . . made whole. Made new. Flourishing with color, life, joy and peace.
These folks fulfilled their purpose as cultivators. They fulfilled their role as stewards of the earth. They planted trees, harvested crops, and foraged resources. They wrote literature, sang songs and crafted poems. They did not see the earth as hopeless or void but rather broken . . . waiting to be made new . . . longing to be made new. They were ushering in Jesus' kingdom. They were calling upon the Echoes of Eden.
Are you familiar with Echoes of Eden? You have heard them. They are the soft whispers . . . the pulling on our heart strings . . . the ache, burning, and longing within when we experience the laughter of a baby. . . sultry wine . . . a breathtaking sunset . . . turquoise oceans . . . crusty sourdough toast . . . neon starfish . . . Literature, film, song, dance, Monet, Van Gough, Degas.
Those things in life that light your heart on fire, that make you ache deep within, they are not meant to be ignored or brushed aside. They are Echoes of your origin . . . Echoes of your homeland. One of Lewis' most beloved characters, Reepicheep, says it best, "the spell of it has been on me all my life" (VDT, chapter 2).
We (like fictional Reepicheep) were made in Eden, for Eden . . . and the saints of Christendom understood that. And it is because of their understanding, that the gospel spread like wild fire. Our ancient fathers and mothers viewed their work, their purpose, to bring Eden to earth. To reflect what used to be (in the garden) and what is to come (the new earth). Instead of withdrawing from the world, instead of disengaging from culture, they cultivated culture. They foraged, crafted, molded and sculpted . . . both metaphorically and figuratively.
It was not until I understood that Christendom got it right, that my passions and longings and desire to plant flowers and frost cupcakes was GOOD and PIVOTAL in the very existence of the gospel itself, that I was able to fully comprehend the cross that Christ died on . . . but more on that later . . . cupcakes and crucifixion . . . it will be a doozy.
I shared with you all in parts 1-3 (just scroll below) that my faith was indeed flickering . . . I was heavy and saddened and so confused. I lost sleep wrestling over my purpose, humanity's purpose (I'm really fun to live with, just ask Rick) and how to reconcile my inside desires with my outside influences.
But that's not where my story ends, friends. George Grant got it right . . .