Laughing at ourselves
Terry Lindvall encourages us to maintain our inner child.
On a rainy October day, frazzled by the sudden flurry of assignments and innumerable things to do, I found myself sitting down for an interview with distinguished C.S. Lewis scholar, Dr. Terry Lindvall.
Somehow, over the course of a twenty-minute chat in the corner of the bookstore, all of that unnecessary stress and agitation fell away.
From his winning smile the minute he shook my hand, to the way he introduced himself as just, “Terry,” and asked my name, I could tell he was someone who didn’t care about anything except what is most important: the people around him. The laughter that he lectured and wrote about exuded from him contagiously.
MARS HILL: What are some of the main things you have learned from studying Lewis?
TERRY LINDVALL: His way of translating the faith into the vernacular, of expressing what the faith is all about in images and in parables and stories that people understand. Too many times we speak in religious jargon.
The apostle Paul spoke in religious jargon because he was talking to churches. But when you look at the Gospels, you’re talking to the world, so you use those kinds of stories. Lewis did that significantly well.
How do we do that? The vernacular of our day is images, film, television, digital images; so how do we communicate through these forms? That becomes my challenge to my students.
MH: Are there any people who do this well?
TL: Walden media, with the Chronicles of Narnia. There’s a whole movement down in Atlanta with the churches there doing Facing the Giants, Courageous, lots of Christian inspiration films.
The Wall Street Journal had an article on the return of Bible films, where Russell Crowe is doing Noah; so there’s this whole revival. I was fortunate enough to be a consultant for Jeffery Katzenburg on the Prince of Egypt, where he was retelling the Egypt story and really wrestling with his faith. Hollywood does have a faith, and they’re trying to wrestle with it.
MH: Do you have any words of encouragement for those of us who are slaving away at the books, studying, and learning to participate in and create culture?
TL: Yeah, basically we need to be in [culture], but in it lightly. We need to enjoy it, but not take it seriously. To bring God’s laughter into it—not to be so intense. Let God worry about the fruit, we come in and we do planting and we do sowing, we do work, but we do it and enjoy our work.
The Westminster catechism says that the chief end of man is to love God and enjoy Him forever. Most of the time, we try to love God, but we don’t really enjoy Him. And what does it mean to really enjoy him: it means to enjoy each other. And we lose that sometimes. So just enjoy what you do!
Lindvall’s faith was evident in the way he prizes relationships. He told the story of authoring a children’s book with his daughter, which is available in the campus bookstore. It’s the tale of a young girl who, faced with pressures to grow up, to put on make-up, and to be mature, sinks into a gloom. But just like her father in the story, who gives her a mirror which allows her to laugh at herself, Terry encourages us to “stay a child for as long as you can,” to “just enjoy the life God has given you as a child, laugh, and don’t be forced into these preconceived ideas.”
On a day where I had stressed myself out worrying about things that are not so important, this was exactly what I needed to hear. Lindvall encouraged me to not worry about the article, but to just have fun with it. I had to laugh at myself.