At 8:42 Monday morning our daughter Rachel completed what Chesterton called the supreme adventure of life—she was born. Why does Chesterton call birth the supreme adventure of man? From chapter 13 of Heretics:
“When we are born we do walk suddenly into a splendid and startling trap. There we do see something of which we have not dreamed before. Our father and mother do lie in wait for us and leap out upon us, like brigands from a bush. Our uncle is a surprise. Our aunt is, in the beautiful common expression, a bolt from the blue. When we step into the family, by the act of being born, we do step into a world which is incalculable, into a world which has its own strange laws, into a world which could do without us, into a world that we have not made. In other words, when we step into the family, we step into a fairytale.”
Just like in a good fairytale, Rachel left the only world she had ever known. Her mother’s womb was her Shire, her London. But by forces of deep magic she was thrust into an enchanted tunnel, a warp zone of sorts, and through many tribulations landed in a new world. Here she was told she belonged to a family and was sent into their home to learn their ways, to speak their language, to sing their songs, to worship their God, and to make a life during the days allotted to her before passing through a greater tribulation to a greater world beyond. She chose none of this, and how she deals with it all is what makes it an adventure.
Like any good fairytale, this world into which Rachel has been born has its share of dragons. Our family alone provides enough to overcome: the sin-dragons of her older siblings, of her parents, not to mention her own little sin nature she brought along with her.
Then there is the world without. She has the misfortune of being born in 2016, the year of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and rogue clowns—but I repeat myself. To the south the battle against ISIS rages on. A bloodily coup was waged a few blocks from where I sit just a few months ago. Back in the States we’ve lost the ability to tell girls from boys, and grown men fancy it a civil right to tinkle one stall over from little girls not much older than Rachel. And if you refuse to stand in rapt applause of such progress you will meet the gentle acquaintance of what one writer has called the Tolerance Buzzsaw.
Chesterton was right. Simply being born turns out to be quite the adventure, with danger on every side and glory just over the next horizon. Life is full of light and darkness, good and evil, known and unknown. Rachel did not choose this world, this family, or these dragons. No, she will inherit them all without ever being asked once for her opinion or preference. It’s the not choosing part that Chesterton insists makes birth the supreme adventure. So we all have to make do with whatever the Lord gives to us, and the question of the ages is will we be faithful?
In many ways the future looks bleak for a girl born in 2016. Our culture is barreling downhill at 90 mph, a cliff just ahead, and has, with great self-aggrandizement, cut the brake lines because stop and go are so binary, man. Although we self-identify as coming to gentle curbside stop, the reality is that we are going over the edge. To certain university professors and journalists the freefall might seem fun at first, but the law of gravity—bigoted Enlightenment holdover that it is—demands that we crash, and hard. That is, we cannot continue in this way forever. Self-contradictions tethered to vapor, as it turns out, cannot bear the weight of a civilization.
This brings me to another shiny pearl of Chestertonian wisdom:
“The one perfectly divine thing, the one glimpse of God’s paradise given on earth, is to fight a losing battle – and not lose it.”
Not only do fairytales have their share of dragons, but they also have their heroes, their dragon-slayers. Riders on white horses, swords dipped in blood, and laughter in the face of evil.
Rachel has been born into the One True Fairytale, and the current chapter has us walking through dark forests. We see shadows and hear the pattering of chasing hooves. But ours is a losing battle that we cannot lose. For the Dragon-Slayer has already put the blade to the neck of that ancient serpent. His heel is bruised, but snakeskull is crushed. We have a Hero and we have a hope.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”—John 1:5
So I congratulate Rachel on her great achievement: she was born. I welcome her into our wild, rollicking, surprising, stupefying, dangerous, sorrowful, delightful world.
I pray that she would be a true child of our mother Sarah: that she would do good and not fear anything that is frightful. That while loving this world she would look to a better country, a heavenly one. That she would laugh at the days to come. For all good fairytales end happily ever after.
Happy Birthday, Rachel.