How Do You Picture Yourself and the World You Live in

May 25, 2023 by David Fowler

How Do You Picture Yourself and the World You Live in
Last weekend I gave the commencement address for over 100 home-educated high school graduates in Chattanooga. I told them what I wished someone had told me when I was their age that has now revolutionized my life: How you can have the world by the tail when it seems like it has you by the tail. I hope you find this abbreviated version helpful. 


I want to leave you with a way to picture the future you will be building. I want to say something that will leave you not just feeling like you can grab hold of the world by the tail but knowing that it is possible.

To accomplish this, I want to introduce you to what may be a new word and perhaps a new metaphor by which you can see the world and build your future on solid rock, not sinking sand.

Seeing the World as Metaphor.

Until about two years ago, I had never seen the world as a metaphor. However, I don’t mean to suggest that the world is unreal as the solipsists would suggest or that reality should be divorced from the present and our experiences as the mystic would suggest. 

I mean metaphor in the sense that Scripture tells us the whole of creation is revealing something greater than that which is seen; it is revealing that which is invisible; it is revealing to us the glory of the invisible God.

A Famous Poet Explains the Importance of Metaphor.

Archibald MacLeish, an early 20th century poet, playwright, lawyer, and statesman, knew the importance of metaphor to understanding the times. He came of age when World War I was ending. He sensed then that an “old world” was ending, and the Great War marked the beginning of a new one. 

However, in 1952, after the Second Great War, he expressed the ending of that old world and the beginning of the new one with these words taken, in part, from a poem entitled, “Hypocrite Auteur” (I’ll explain its meaning):
A world ends when its metaphor has died.
An age becomes an age, all else beside,
When sensuous poets in their pride invent
Emblems for the soul’s consent
That speak the meanings men will never know
But man-imagined images can show:
It perishes when those images, though seen,
No longer mean.

In other words, metaphors and images “speak meanings” that we may “never know,” i.e., may never be able to verbalize well. As Pascal said, “The heart has reasons that reason will never know.”1 And a “world”—an age—that is expressed in “those images” dies or ends when those images no longer have meaning to us or make sense.

If we consider now what MacLeish was then calling us to understand, we will realize that the defining metaphor for our world—the cosmos, if you will—has changed. It was becoming then and now is that of a machine, a concatenation of atoms suffused with energy moved along without any intelligible purpose by impersonal laws of nature.
How can you grab that kind of world by the tail and, to be honest, who would want to?  

In that metaphor, the world has you by the tail and is slinging you and me, indeed everything, purposelessly into a future in which thoughts of God and providence can have no place; it’s a future that can “no longer mean.”

The Modern Metaphor and Image is a Lie.

But I am here today to tell you that metaphor is a lie and why. Moreover, I will tell you why the proper metaphor for the world you are going into is that of a harmonious symphony in which you play a most crucial part and, by playing your part—no matter how large or small—you can grab hold of the world by its tail.

To get there, you need to follow me a bit, but I will connect the dots. 

Connecting the Dots to the Metaphor that is Real and True.

In Colossians 1:10, the Apostle Paul’s prayer for the Colossians connects “fruitful[ness]” in “every good work” to “increasing in the knowledge of God.” 

Then in verses 15-18 he speaks to who this God is and what He has done in the person of His Son incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 
For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 
And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 
And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

Notice that Christ is central—foundational—to both the original good creation and the new creation. 

Then in verse 19, the Apostle further explains who this God is: “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell.” 

In other words, and bypassing a superficial reading of that verse for what 20th century theologian Herman Bavinck wrote, we can conclude: Because God, as the Father, could communicate himself—all that He is, in “all fullness”—to the Son in an absolute sense, it is logical that He could communicate Himself in a relative sense to that which is created. 

Because the Christian’s God is Triune, we have a God in which the creation of the lesser, the relative, can be predicated. The greater can logically include the lesser, but not the other way around. No religion, no expression of Theism, no god is like our God!

That is why in Colossians 2:3 Paul builds on his prayer in 1:10. He wants them to come to a “full assurance of understanding” of “all the riches” to be found in “the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and the Son.” 

And in verse 4 he explains why knowledge of this mystery is so important: without it you will be “deceived.”  

As he writes a few verses later (v. 8), you can be “cheat[ed] . . . through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world,” and notice what next follows, by those philosophies that are “not according to Christ.

Why “According to Christ” Is So Important. 

The answer to this question is in the next verse (9): “For in Him (Christ) dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” 

And why is that so important? Because in that incarnational truth—that mediation between God and creation that is “embodied” in Christ/Messiah as both man and Son of God—he says “you”—those made in the image of God—"are complete in Him.”

I love that word “complete.” It is the Greek word “telos.” Paul is saying in Christ you are what you were created to be—which is a concept that the world’s metaphor of machine cannot know or have or offer you. 

In other words, you are not a cog in some cosmic machine because in the Son and in Christ, creation, history, and recreation are all personal, and they are personal because God, in the person of the Son and in the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit, is personal.

Jesus Christ as the incarnate Son of God is, as Paul said in Chapter 1, the foundation for the created order and for the new creation that has been brought about in Jesus Christ. He is the foundation for the Kingdom of God into which those in Christ have been transferred, Colossians 1:13! 

Hang onto that when you sense the machine is crushing the life out of you, for your life is in Christ, hidden in God, for a glory yet to be revealed. Christ is the head of all things and things are the tail, BUT when you are in Christ, you have the world by the tail, and now I’ll prove that.

Meet the Word “Synecdoche” and Learn Its Importance

Synecdoche is a literary device in which a part of something is used to represent the whole, such as referring to your car as “your wheels” or when a man asks a woman for her hand in marriage, he usually wants the woman, not just her hand. 

Synecdoche is employed in 1 Corinthians 1:18. If you don’t see it, you will miss the greatness of what that verse teaches. We read, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The “message of the cross” is a synecdoche. It is a phrase that represents the whole of what the cross represents—the power of God.
It represents to you the power of God to create and sustain all things; the power of the Son as the very image of God to bring about a creation that reveals the glory of God and to create human beings in the very image of God; the power of God to direct the whole flow of history to the cross and, going forward, from the cross to the “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21) in a new head of humanity, the Son of God incarnate, the ”last man” and “Second Adam”(1 Corinthians 15:45-47). 

As Paul says in another synecdoche in Galatians 6:15, “new creation” is to be contrasted to all that “circumcision [and] uncircumcision” represented in the world (age) prior to Christ. New creation is the metaphor I would suggest to you for how to see all things, and this metaphor has a real, substantial, enduring meaning.

The “New Creation” Metaphor—Recreation is the Creation Story in Reverse.

Now notice this. After saying in 1 Corinthians 3:11 that the “only foundation” that can be laid is Jesus Christ, Paul says in verse 16: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”

How important is that! The foundation, indeed, the cornerstone of what the Father, through the Son, by the work of the Holy Spirit, is building is in you if you are in Christ!

This, he says, is foolishness to the wise of this world, but in verse 19 he writes, “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their own craftiness,’ and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, they are futile’”—they ‘no longer mean’ as MacLeish said—“Therefore let no one boast in men” (emphasis supplied). 

And why should you and I not boast and glory in anything but this Triune God? Why would it be foolish for you and me to do anything else?

Paul gives the answer in the following sentence, and notice at the end he reverses the order of creation expressed in Colossians which was from Father to Son to creation to new creation: 
For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

From the world we come to a new creation and you, and from you to Christ and from Christ to God, from whom and through whom and to whom are all things (Romans 11:36)!

Leave here today knowing that whoever you are and whatever your gifts and calling, you have the world by the tail when Christ is in you, and you are in Christ.

In the words of Nehemiah, “Let us arise and build!”
Blaise Pascal, The Mind on Fire: A Faith for the Skeptical and Indifferent.

Subscribe to Email Updates


Donate to FACT

Make a Donation