Family tradition says my dad’s youngest sister once believed she could fly. To prove it, she climbed the stairs and leapt from the top.
Predictably, she flew only a little way (mostly down), and rolled the rest of the way. Hilariously (according to her siblings), she did not stop at the bottom of the stairs, but revolved onward until she disappeared into a laundry cupboard.
Once they dug her out, she was strongly encouraged to spend her time doing little girl things, and leave flying to the birds.
As far as I know, nobody implied that girls were better than birds, or birds better than girls. They only encouraged her to accept a simple truth: It is good for things to be themselves, and less good for them to be otherwise.
For reasons I don’t understand, the ideas of equality and sameness are often confused. We find it hard to believe that two things, or genders, or decisions, or people, can be sharply different and yet equally good – Even if God made them that way.
This doubt steals one of the great comforts of theism. For if there is a Creator, then everything was made on purpose, and there is a place for all of us. But confusing equality and sameness makes us reluctant to celebrate the mad diversity that surrounds us. And we are poorer because of it.
I believe this doubt is more than a lack of faith; it is a failure of imagination, and can be countered in the language of imagination. If N.D. Wilson is correct, stories are like catechisms for our impulses, conditioning our unconscious responses to all of life. Let us find stories which celebrate the responsibility and dizzying opportunity that comes with being creatures!
This is one of the virtues for which I love C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia.
In Narnia we find boys being boys, and girls being girls, and beavers being beavers, and dryads being dryads, and badgers, and dwarves, and bears, and owls, and men, and women, and marsh-wiggles, all being brave, and kind, and noble in ways distinctly their own.
I would go so far as to say that the idea of finding joy by fulfilling one’s created purpose (whether one would have at first chosen it oneself or not) is a theme throughout the Chronicles. I don’t know of another story that shows it so well, nor so often.
So, read The Chronicles of Narnia, both for your children and yourself. But also, please leave a comment with the title of any stories you have found encouraging on this subject. I don’t think we could ever have too many.
He occasionally blogs at jamesdwitmer.com or @jamesdwitmer, spends his free time digging in the garden with his wife, and is pleasantly surprised to find that loving his family makes meaningful change in the world.