Jul 15, 2023
This is a rally cry for believers to be the most enchanted people on the planet. Otherwise, what are we even doing here?
There’s a hilarious John Crist bit where the comedian polls his audience on what they weren’t allowed to watch growing up as Christian kids, and why. Among the list are: “Harry Potter—witchcraft; Pokemon—occult; My Little Pony—satanic; and CatDog—not how God intended it.” (Crist is quick to point out that God likely didn’t intend for Bible characters to be played by vegetables, either.)
It’s funny because it’s border-line ridiculous; it’s also funny because it’s true. Christians, as a group, have gained the unfortunate reputation of being sticks-in-the-mud: we’re known for being buttoned-up and straight-laced, easily offended and quick to appraise the world based on our own moral sensibilities. Censored and sanitized—that’s how we roll.
This, of course, is an overgeneralization. But stereotypes come from somewhere, don’t they? And this one comes from many shreds of truth, pieced together into a blanket that has become so common and comfortable that many believers do sink beneath it, feeling quite safe and insulated by the delicious sense of order it produces. In this world, magic is a no-go, wandering imaginations dip into the dangerous waters of blasphemy, and wonder is only one misstep away from doubt.
Magic: A World of Possibility
As a child, I was fortunate enough to live under no such constrictions. My car rides and quiet moments were filled with the mesmerizing worlds of Harry Potter, Matilda, and The Chronicles of Narnia. I delighted in stories like Hansel and Gretel and The Indian in the Cupboard. (I even watched my fair share of CatDog.) As a result, the world I inhabited was infused with enchantment, and it was ripe with possibility. For years, I believed that yes, I just might stumble upon fairies playing in the woods beside our house, or that it was entirely possible on a rainy Tuesday to happen upon a magic portal into another time, another world.
Slowly (and ever-so-reluctantly), I wandered from this mystical existence into adulthood, abandoning magic and wonder for that which I could hold and study and know. I became sensible and learned to be a good Christian girl, wary of anything that smacked of sorcery.
And something delightful within me died.
Now, let me be perfectly clear: I am not condoning sorcery, witchcraft, or the occult here. Not by a long shot. What I am saying is that some of us have learned to scrub the magic out of our lives so effectively that not only do we struggle to appreciate a wonderful children’s story for what it is—a portal into a whole new world of possibility—but we also struggle to embrace the reality that this very world is infiltrated by the supernatural, all the time.
Imagination: Not Just a Childish Whim
We were each given a healthy dose of wonder and imagination when we were just mustard seeds inside our mothers’ wombs. Just as essential as our hearts and lungs, these organs pump hope and longing through our veins. They give us the desire to dwell in a different reality—and the ability to envision it, even when we can’t physically see it. Somewhere along the way, though, many of us have learned to fear and chasten our own imaginations, worrying they will take us too far, leading us into scary lands that are distant from the glory of God. But imagination is actually a God-given tool. He has formed our minds and hearts to not only be able to accept that there are invisible, other-worldly things all around us, but to also want to pursue them. It’s genius, really—how else would we be able to know and love him, while he’s up in heaven and we’re here on earth?
As Mike Cosper writes in his brilliant book, Recapturing the Wonder, about life with God, “We’re invited to pay attention to the enchanted world around us in a new way, to be open to the possibility of an encounter with God at every moment…Every moment, every encounter, is meaningful and numinous. All ground is holy ground.”1
Paul confirms this notion that everything is holy ground when he writes, “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (Colossians 1:16). God infused his glory into everything he created. And not only that, but he made entire principalities and dominions and realms that are invisible to us. They, too, are just as real and ordained as what we can touch and see. They, too, exist.
Our propensity to sand down the supernatural in the name of holiness, then, is one of the greatest tragedies of the American church. The supernatural is holy, for God himself exists outside of what can be explained by science. To be able to pursue him fully means accepting that he extends far beyond the confines of sense and sensibility. To commune with him is to leave this
three-dimensional world and to frolic in the wild and colorful waters of mystery. Knowing Jesus is the closest thing to magic in the real world. If we want to experience him more fully, we need to loosen our grasp on the flesh-and-blood dimension and get in touch, once again, with the childish wonder that God gave us for this very purpose.
God: Author of Real-Life Magic
What would change if we started to approach the world as if it were glimmering with magic again? For starters, faith would probably look a lot more intriguing to those who don’t know Jesus yet.
Earlier this week, I had an interesting conversation with a friend. She was explaining how she’d been wanting to share the beautiful ways God was working in her life, but her fear that she’d somehow trammel people with the gospel kept holding her back. “I guess I just have a hard time believing that anyone actually wants to hear about Jesus,” she said. “Like they don’t want to talk or think about faith, and having to respond to my thoughts on it would feel like a burden to them.”
I shared her sentiments; I’ve had the same sneaky suspicions myself. I’ve always had the vague sense that my friends tolerate my insistence on ‘being a Christian’ (and maybe even view it as an endearing quirk?), just as long as I don’t try to load those stuffy expectations onto them. And of course they’d feel like that, if their only image of Christians is the uptight, narrow-minded prudes that I described above. People want to experience a reality that is more expansive, more liberating, and more wondrous than anything they’ve known before. They don’t want more rules—they want more life. And that is precisely what Jesus came for: “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). The best way to awaken people to Jesus’ goodness is to entice them with a level of brilliance they won’t find anywhere else. This is not smoke and mirrors. It’s just a massive perk of Kingdom life.
As believers, then, we should be the most enchanted people on the planet. Knowing Christ gives us the exotic liberty of living inside one abundant and fanciful mystery—one in which the supernatural truly can surprise us at any ordinary moment; say, while we’re scrubbing day-old eggs from the pan or staking up our tomatoes in the garden. We see such moments all throughout the Bible: moments where heaven intersects with earth, where science is bent, and where the natural world suddenly becomes saturated with the divine. Mary becomes pregnant. Jacob wrestles with God. The risen Jesus makes a fish fry for his disciples.
Do we believe it’s true that Jesus gives us so much life that even we can be freed from constraints like time, matter, mortality, or human rules? Or do we prefer to keep these wonders tucked between the covers of our King James, content with our mundane, gravity-ridden lives?
It’s true, order and predictability produce a certain sense of security. But I believe that God must feel a little dejected when we dim down his wonder in the name of reason and over-cautiousness. Like little Pharisees, we create rules that he did not place on us, and become enslaved to looking at the gifts he’s given us as potential stumbling blocks to holiness. In becoming so attentive to our law and order, we miss out on the luminous lives that we could have. Believing in magical fantasies is not a threat to our faith—but our failure to acknowledge the ways we worship cynicism and control is.
As Aslan, the lion and Jesus-figure in The Chronicles of Narnia, famously says, “Don’t cite the Deep Magic to me, Witch. I was there when it was written.”2 God is the author of real-life magic. He set it into the foundations of the earth. All the world is seasoned with mystery and his incandescent glory. And so, as believers, it’s not enchantment that we should fear—it’s a departure from it.
So let this be the summer of enchantment. Let this be our season to return to holy, childlike wonder. Let’s leave behind our boring inclinations to boycott what we can’t explain, and instead let’s become enraptured by the possibility that we could stumble upon magic anywhere.
1 Mike Cosper, Recapturing the Wonder: Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2017), p. 112.
2 C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, (UK: Geoffrey Bles, 1950).
Deidre Braley is a freelance writer and editor. She lives in Maine with her husband and two children, and most days can be found savoring an overly cheesy bagel or drinking a second cup of coffee while working on her weekly newsletter, The Second Cup. She is a strong believer in the power of poetry, picking roadside flowers, and blowing past small talk at all costs. Follow her on Instagram @deidresecondcup or on Facebook—she loves meeting new friends.