From the Beginning, Onward!


12, May, 2021Posted by :Zach Ellsworth

Disney Pixar’s 2020 film Onward begins with a plain black screen. After a brief moment of darkness, you hear a voice say, “Long ago the world was full of wonder…” At these words, the screen comes bursting into view, as a flying unicorn dashes through a fantastical mountain valley filled with lush green hills dotted with mushroom houses.

As the camera pans across the landscape, it captures mythical creatures running, swimming, and flying. The voice-over continues, “(The world) was adventurous. Exciting. Best of all, there was magic!”

If you had sat down knowing nothing at all about the movie, these first ten seconds would immediately prepare you for the things you were about to see. These opening words establish a world of magical and fantastic possibilities. And although the world that we end up seeing in Onward is similar to our own (complete with minivans and at-home workout videos), we’re not at all surprised if we witness fire-breathing dragons, magic stones, or raised wands casting spells.

Stories must quickly set expectations. Beginnings don’t need to tell us what will happen, but they do need to tell us what we’re working with and therefore what is possible. A story doesn’t need to give away it’s surprises, but it does need to make its surprises believable.

“Long ago the world was full of wonder. It was adventurous. Exciting. Best of all, there was magic!”

When you hear those words, what are you prepared to see?

When you hear these words, what are you prepared to see?

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

The story of the Bible quickly sets our expectations. It doesn’t immediately tell us what will happen, but it tells us what we’re working with—or rather, who is really at work in the first place—and therefore what is possible.

It is not many gods coming together on a group project. It is the One True God who has created all things. There is one God who sets the agenda for the universe. There is one God whose will is always done. He is the God who made the heavens and the earth. The God of Israel alone deserves allegiance. This, of course, stood in contrast to many competing mythologies of other nations.

Which is precisely why it is found at the very beginning. God’s Word quickly sets our expectations. There are not many gods competing on the stage of the universe. The story we find is of a God who is completely in control. Of course, this doesn’t tell us everything that happens, but it makes the rest of the story (the plagues in Egypt, crossing the Red Sea, foreign kings conquering Israel and Judah, the Savior born in a manger then crucified on a cross, and his followers imprisoned for their faith) believable.

Today, we’re not likely to believe in a pantheon of gods duking it out over the fate of the world. The pendulum of unbelief has forcefully swung to the other side; there aren’t many gods fighting because there are no gods at all. Instead, humans are all alone in this endeavor we call life and it’s up to us to figure things out.

Though the situation has changed drastically, the words of Genesis 1:1 are no less important—or powerful.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

God created it all. And the story goes on to tell us that God had a plan from the outset of creation. As we read the Bible, we see that plan unfold until it culminates in the redemption of all things in Christ Jesus. As we look around today, we can see that plan still unfolding (no matter how dim it might look to our eyes). This isn’t merely a story—it’s the story of the world.

It’s a story that we would do well to remember. But unlike the world of Onward, with elves (among other things) constantly reminding those who watch that they’re witnessing a magical realm with magical possibilities, it is easy to forget the words of Genesis 1:1 and everything they imply. But remembering the beginning helps us find our way into the future.

We may not live in a magical world, but it is a wonderful world made by God.