On the Other Side of this Dusty Wardrobe


My children blur fantasy and reality. Right now, they are yipping from the other room, pretending they’re puppies. Later, they’ll be ninjas, superheroes, or bunnies. They stack cardboard boxes on overturned chairs, drape them with blankets, prop pillows all around, and create cozy puppy rooms for one another. They scavenge for ordinary objects, using them as portals to magical lands. For them, imagination is something to indulge, not suppress. If we tell our daughter the Tangle Fairy tiptoed into her bedroom at night to tousle her hair, she believes us. Found items morph into fantastical instruments and ancient artifacts in their tiny hands.

Jesus said we must change and become like children. Perhaps he wanted us to breathe with our imagination, not just our intellect. And on days and weeks where death swallows the ones we love, I’m eager to blur the lines between mystical and mundane. I need to believe there’s life after death.

Some of my favorite authors have fiddled with fantasy: the hushed human hope that life on earth conceals supernatural powers and cosmic struggles. These authors wrote of children who hide in a wardrobe before strolling into another world; an abused little boy who discovers his talent as a wizard; and a hobbit who abandons normal life in the Shire to pursue a harrowing quest, accompanied by dwarves and elves. Superhero movies reveal our underlying hope for superhuman abilities of our own, or at least the longing that when danger and darkness surround us, a hero with superpowers will pluck us from harm.

Loss has tamped down the usual bliss of spring for me this year. In a span of two weeks, a friend died of cancer at age 41, Rachel Held Evans passed away from medical complications, my aunt died suddenly in her sleep, and I heard of another young mother’s tragic death. In the same beat, apple blossoms, lilac blooms, and newly green leaves quietly unfurl in my yard, humming resurrection tunes to the Colorado sleet and snow.

I can’t be a follower of Jesus without the hope of resurrection. Author Neil Gaiman said that “fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

C.S. Lewis attributes much of his conversion to Christianity to reading George MacDonald’s Phantastes, saying this fairy tale “baptized” his imagination. Lewis and many of his friends experimented with myth, fantasy, and science fiction to excavate the complex secrets of God and the universe.

My children speculate about what heaven, resurrection, and our bodies will look like exactly. I wonder right alongside them. Lately I’ve been reading 1 Corinthians 15 over and over again. The Message tells truth to tired souls: “If there’s no resurrection, there’s no living Christ. And face it—if there’s no resurrection for Christ, everything we’ve told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you’ve staked your life on is smoke and mirrors.” The New Living Translation says that if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.

And what will our raised bodies be like? Paul compares our earthly bodies to seeds, a metaphor I understand clearly for the first time in my life. As an amateur gardener, I attended a seed swap several weeks ago and am eager to bury these tiny, dried up pieces of flower and vegetable in my newly constructed raised beds.

Paul says that when you sow a seed, it doesn’t grow unless it dies first. The poetry of the King James Version says it this way: “That which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die.” It reminds me of the magical first movement of the baby a mother feels, called the “quickening.” Tiny heels tapping the insides of a hopeful mama. Will we “quicken” again after we die?

The New Living Translation continues like this: “What you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a bare seed of wheat or whatever you are planting. Then God gives it the new body God wants it to have. A different plant grows from each kind of seed … It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead.”

Everything hinges on the hope of resurrection. Imagination nudges us off the cliff of doubt to leap onto the wings of belief in a supernatural world and a resurrected body. Seemingly dead seeds whisper of ripe tomatoes and refreshing cucumbers, dancing alpine daisies and radiant rose bushes. We see the potential of the seed, but can’t fathom the dazzling end.

Paul explains,

“Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever.

Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory.

They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength.

They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies.”

There is a kingdom on the other side of this dusty wardrobe. Every once in a while, we catch a glimmer of magic rustling just beyond the back paneling. Children and nature’s parables usher us to the gates of the kingdom, reminding us to dream, imagine, and yearn for the mystery. But our hope rides on Jesus, who slays the dragon of death and conjures flowers from seeds buried in the dust.