I’ll never forget my first time in Beaconsfield, England. Not only did I have an opportunity to visit the home of G.K. Chesterton and his beloved wife, but I was able to spend time praying in his home parish and at his grave (which happens to be at a nondescript cemetery nearby). It was a moment of profound gratitude as I recalled the life of a literary giant, esteemed journalist, and personal hero.
In addition to his brilliance, Chesterton was a man of great courage who never hesitated to debate the most renowned atheists of his time, many of whom were his close friends such as fellow writers George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells. He knew how to captivate any crowd and send them into a roaring fit of laughter. He had a way of presenting eternal truth with such humanity and joy that it became irresistible for even his harshest critics.
This great prophet of mirth (also known as the prophet of girth because of his ever-fluctuating weight) has inspired me ever since college when I read his perennial work Orthodoxy. The combination of his love for the human experience, detached seriousness about matters of truth, and self-deprecating wit forever changed how I see the world.
Reading Chesterton is not easy. In fact, without a tremendous amount of historical context, there are few of us who can understand every page of his writings. But that shouldn’t be a cause for alarm nor an excuse to give up. Orthodoxy is one of the greatest works in the English language, as much for its brilliant turn-of-phrase as for its profound unveiling of what it means to be human.
One of my favorite moments in Orthodoxy is when Chesterton calls to mind the idea of divine monotony, that the God of the universe never tires of telling the sun to get up in the morning or to go down at night. God shares the innocent and untainted wonder of children, who engage in repetitive activities at play for hours on end. It’s a pointed reminder for those of us who have grown old in our sin: that our Father in Heaven is younger than us.
So I pose this question: What does it look like to live with Chestertonian joy in a world that’s drifting further away from beauty, truth, and goodness? I am convinced that Orthodoxy offers a timeless solution, modeling for us the brave pursuit of truth with childlike wonder. Of course, that pursuit demands humility and courage — virtues that are rare in today’s culture.
During each of my trips to England, I find myself at some point introducing those around me to G.K. Chesterton, sometimes even engaging in long conversations with those who live a few minutes’ walk from where he is buried. This is humbling and exciting as I realize that, close to a century later, we still have so much to learn from him. The man whose writings brought about the conversion of C.S. Lewis can teach us today how to live with joyful bewilderment, how to stand in awe before the beauty of creation and feel empowered in our pursuit of truth with others.
If you feel a bit daunted by the thought of picking up your own copy of Orthodoxy and diving into our 5-part series on the podcast with Jason Craig, be brave. This book offers a guide for living with childlike wonder so mirth can dance in your eyes as it once danced in the eyes of Chesterton. In fact, this mirth is already within you. It probably just needs a dose of century-old English wit to bring it to life.
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