Even once we’ve made the choice to view our work as a sacrificial response to the call of our Caller, we still live in a world that constantly wars against our decision. If we are to effectively create for the glory of God and the good of others, rather than primarily for our own fame and fortune, we must, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [our minds].” But how, practically, do we do this? As J.R.R. Tolkien shows us, a community of fellow Christian creators is an essential ingredient.
Any Tolkien fan knows that the author had a thing for trees. One morning, Tolkien woke up to find that a beloved tree just outside his home had been inexplicably chopped down by a neighbor. Tolkien was grieved because, for him, the fate the tree experienced represented what Tolkien feared for his “internal tree,” The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien had spent decades working on what he hoped would be the crowning achievement of his career; but as World War II crescendoed across Europe, Tolkien’s progress on the project had slowed considerably. With invasion of Britain seemingly imminent, Tolkien began to despair that, like the tree, his life might be suddenly chopped down, his life’s work with it.
Fortunately for Tolkien, he had surrounded himself with a community of other Christians to help renew his mind and maintain his eternal perspective. This group of friends, known as “the Inklings,” was comprised of men who shared Tolkien’s love of the Lord and literature, most notably among them, C.S. Lewis. For two decades, the group met with varying regularity at an Oxford pub called The Eagle and Child (which you can still visit today). At one of these get-togethers, we know that Tolkien brought up the slain tree and his fear that The Lord of the Rings might suffer the same fate.
It was the Inklings that encouraged Tolkien to persevere in his work, while also reminding him that, even if his magnum opus was never completed, the simple act of being faithful to God’s call to create had eternal significance. We all know the rest of the story: Tolkien pressed on with this eternal perspective and The Lord of the Rings became one of the best-selling novels of all time.
Without regular communion with other believers to refresh their eternal perspectives, Tolkien may have never completed The Lord of the Rings, and Lewis may have never finished The Chronicles of Narnia. As we create in this world, it takes regular communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ to renew our minds and continually “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen” (2 Corinthians 4:18).
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.Romans 12:1-2
as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.2 Corinthians 4:18