Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl by N.D. Wilson


The apostle Paul writes in Colossians, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” A few years ago, I read a book titled, “Notes From The Tilt-A-While.” In it N.D. Wilson writes about creation in a way that uniquely illustrates the significance of these verses. Check it out! 

Tree, I say, and you know what I mean. You see one in your mind, or glance out your window and remember the much-needed pruning. Tree, God says, and there is one. But He doesn’t say the word tree; He says the tree itself. He needs no shortcut. He’s not merely calling one into existence, though His voice creates. His voice is its existence. That thing in your yard, that mangy apple or towering spruce, that thing is not the referent of His word. It is His word and its referent. If He were to stop talking, it wouldn’t be there. Or do you think that its molecules and atoms and quarks are made of some mysterious, self-sustaining matter that has always been and will always be, some infinite Play-Doh or hydrogen, holy be its name? Maybe there was an Adam Up Quark and an Eve Lepton? Maybe God found a bit of infinite matter and blew it up like a balloon, and now it sputters and spits while it swirls, sustaining itself? Maybe the balloon found itself and did its own huffing and puffing. Place your faith in the infinitude of matter if you like, and Chance will write the story. He’ll shuffle together pages, words, scribbles from different languages, other people’s noses, and small bits of string, run it all through a mulcher, and spray it into your yard. Enjoy your novel.

Imagine a poem written with such enormous three-dimensional words that we had to invent a smaller word to reference each of the big ones; that we had to rewrite the whole thing in shorthand, smashing it into two dimensions, just to talk about it. Or don’t imagine it. Look outside. Human language is our attempt at navigating God’s language; it is us running between the lines of His epic, climbing on the vowels and building houses out of the consonants.

See that thing?

What thing?

That huge pile of stone that climbs to where the air gets thin?

Yes. It has a lot of syllables. Let’s call it a mountain, okay? When I say mountain, that’s what I mean. It’ll be easier than building one every time.

Is it supposed to blow up?

Let’s call it a volcano.

[1] Wilson, N. D. Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World. Original edition. Thomas Nelson, 2009, pp. 42-43.