by James Schaap
People who knew him claim that the late great President of Dordt College, Dr. John B. Hulst, a very proper man who traveled extensively, used to make his bed every morning before he left his motel room. That’s not gospel truth, but it’s gossip you can trust. After all, nothing on his desk was ever out of square.
I thought the world of man, but his penchant for order is a trait I never learned. See that picture? That’s what’s on my desk as we speak. Hulst would stand here speechless, I’m sure.
We’ll have house guests soon. I’ve got to clean up a bit, make the basement look less cyclone-strewn. I’ve got to create some order out of chaos.
“People without hope don’t write novels,” wrote Flannery O’Connor somewhere in an essay about writing and faith. As someone who has tried his hand at such things, I couldn’t agree more. I just read a blog post I wrote seven years ago, explaining what my second-grade grandson taught me about story-telling simply by sitting beside me while we watched Tangled, Disney’s Rapunzel story, together.
Just watching him get lost in that story, I wrote, helped me figure out how to end the novel I was trying to finish. That blog post is grandfather-ly sweet, but, seven years later the novel is still not whole. “People without hope don’t write novels.”
Every last person whose fingers dance imaginatively on a keyboard or grip a pen is trying her best to create some order out of chaos, to clean up the desk. Poems or novels, essays and blog posts, even tweets—all such matter tries to make sense of things and bring a little hope.
But there’s a spin here on The Twelve, a spin worth operating by and holding on to. The Twelve features voices from a tradition as alien to most North Americans as some dying Sioux dialect, something called the Reformed tradition. Who hasn’t had to try to explain that word?
Just last month I attended a Christian school-teachers’ convention, where I listened to Mary Hulst, college chaplain at Calvin College, hold forth a bit, then take a string of questions on what it means to be Reformed. She was good. She was better than good. But to see an assembly hall full of people who wanted to know what she was talking about—that made my heart swell.
The Twelve is all about making sense, creating some order, some hope, in a Reformed way.
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