This post is featured in the CAPC Magazine Issue 1 of 2021: Renewal issue of Christ and Pop Culture Magazine. Subscribe to Christ and Pop Culture Magazine by becoming a member and receive a host of other benefits, too.

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.”

-Isaiah 40:31

I think it’s safe to assume that most Christians are familiar with Isaiah 40:31. After John 3:16, it’s arguably the most popular verse in the Church’s cultural lexicon. You can find it stretched across motivational posters or penciled inside Christian greeting cards, a timeless promise of hope and restoration. But plumb a little deeper, and you’ll discover that the book of Isaiah is much darker and more compelling than its signature verse would imply. The promise of renewal is still there, but it’s a renewal found through a long and arduous journey.

The same idea is true for Wynd. With its soft linework and cheerful coloring, this graphic novel by James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas seems to promise a lighthearted tale of wonder, friendship, and self-discovery. Does it deliver all these things? Sure, but comic books have always thrived on subverting expectations. Behind its vibrant cover, Wynd takes readers to some shockingly dark places. There are deaths, and tears, and characters who struggle with internalized fear and self-hatred. Pain and danger are very real in the world of Wynd, but so is the hope of renewal. Like the book of Isaiah, the promise is in the journey, not the destination.

Welcome to Pipetown

Wynd opens by whisking readers into the land of Esseriel and introducing them to a young boy with a harrowing secret. Wynd (our eponymous hero) wants nothing more than to live a quiet life inside the walls of Pipetown. He loves working in his family’s tavern and admiring the sunrise from atop his crow’s nest. He loves his foster sister, Oakley, and spying on the palace gardener as he works. But Wynd has magic in his blood, and the pointy ears to prove it. In Pipetown, magic is punishable by death. The old king is determined to purge the “weirdblood” from the population and maintain his city’s self-proclaimed status as the last true empire of man. With danger closing in on every side, Wynd has no choice but to flee the city alongside Oakley, only to discover they are not the only ones trying to escape. Yorik, the Crown Prince, and Thorn, the palace gardener, are also hoping to change their fates by leaving Pipetown. And so, these four misfits set off together down a path that will change them all in ways they never could have imagined.

Spiritual renewal cannot be achieved by hiding from the world. It is found when we choose to follow Christ into the wilderness and allow ourselves to be changed by the experience.

At its heart, Wynd is about our own search for renewal and who we become through the journey. Each character we meet has their own reasons to look for it. Oakley wants to restore her family to the way things were before the king’s men broke them apart. Thorn hopes to find a place where cruelty and duty don’t walk hand-in-hand. Crown Prince Yorik just wants to get away from his father, and everybody else for that matter. As for Wynd, he dreams of being a normal boy who can live a normal life.

Even the city of Pipetown feels hungry for renewal. At first glance, the human metropolis seems like an enchanting place to live. There are markets and canals and taverns with geyser-operated machinery. The people appear friendly and buildings are painted over with chalk-like drawings that bring to mind a family driveway. But hidden underneath it all is an undercurrent of fear. Citizens glance at the walls surrounding their city and mutter about the threat of “weirdblood” outside. Anything strange or unusual is considered dangerous, and the king is willing to pay any price to maintain his control, even if it means shaking hands with an actual devil.

The Trouble with Walls

Reading Wynd, it’s hard not to see the parallels between Pipetown and the American Church. Years of political animosity have left many Christians feeling disillusioned and fearful. Cynicism and distrust have invaded our congregations, while the world outside is viewed more as a warzone than a mission field. Conservatives like Rod Dreher have even argued that now is the time to make a “strategic withdrawal” and gather our strength behind the walls of Christian communities. The trouble with walls, though, is that they can keep things in as much as they keep them out.

Pipetown gives Christians an uncomfortable glimpse of what these cloistered church communities could look like. Instead of leading its citizens to freedom, the city has become a prison. The humans stagnate behind their walls, completely unaware of how irrelevant they’ve become to the rest of Esseriel. It’s no coincidence that the only characters who find some sense of restoration are the ones who decide to leave. Christians should remember that Jesus did not take his followers deeper into the courts of Israel. Instead, He brought them into the world.

Throughout His ministry, Jesus would introduce His disciples to the very people they sought to avoid. He placed them in situations where they were compelled to practice the love, justice, and mercy they professed to represent. Christ’s words and actions challenged their preconceptions and forced many of His followers to reckon with their own moral failings. Outside the safety of their insulated communities, the disciples learned there was a sharp difference between claiming to follow God, and actually living as a follower. It was through these moments that Jesus touched their hearts and minds, molding each person into someone new.

Spiritual renewal cannot be achieved by hiding from the world. It is found when we choose to follow Christ into the wilderness and allow ourselves to be changed by the experience.

The Disciplines of Renewal

The Bible teaches us that renewal is a form of personal transformation. In Christ, we become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). We cast off our old selves and get shaped into something better (Colossians 3:10-12). Though it is Christ that does the work, we cannot shirk our part in the process. Change doesn’t occur simply because we want it to. Following Jesus requires practice and discipline. Like Wynd, we must all take an active role in our own renewal.

We get to observe this truth firsthand by following Wynd and his companions on their journey out of Pipetown. Each character displays a virtue that is essential to their development while also contributing to the betterment of the group. Practicing these virtues are what ultimately leads our four heroes to moments of personal renewal, and as Christians, we can use these same disciplines to pursue Christ’s transformational work in our lives.

In Oakley we find the discipline of fellowship. From the very beginning she is always at Wynd’s side, sharing his burdens and defending him from harm. Her presence allows Wynd to confront his fears, while he in turn pushes Oakley to mature as a leader. Oakley’s actions are an echo of Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Fellowship gives us the strength to overcome obstacles we could never face alone. We all need an Oakley to walk with us on the long road toward renewal. If we’re lucky, we may even get the privilege to fill that role for someone else.

Thorn’s discipline is compassion, which is appropriate given his line of work. As a gardener, Thorn knows how to cultivate growth. He recognizes the potential in each of his friends and works to foster their best qualities while pruning away their flaws. The Gospel reminds us that compassion is about responding to another’s need. Christ demonstrated compassion when he extended grace to a woman caught in adultery or visited the home of a hated tax collector. These acts are like the turning over of old soil: they create a place for new things to take root. By watching Thorn, we learn how compassion toward others helps build the better, kinder world he was hoping to find.

Yorik, our third companion, is easily the most unpleasant of the bunch. The Crown Prince is an angry, sullen boy who rarely misses the chance to insult his allies. Even his escape from Pipetown (viewed by many as a noble action) is done with entirely selfish motives. However, towards the end of Wynd, Yorik is forced to confront his own cowardice. In that moment, he chooses to repent, and through repentance Yorik becomes a new person. As Christians, we understand the power of repentance. Repentance is the first quavering step we take towards God, and the catalyst through which all future change begins. While Yorik is still a flawed and troubled young man, he can finally start acting like the prince his people deserve.

And Wynd? Wynd represents the most important discipline of all: faith. Throughout the novel, our little blue hero is confronted by the knowledge that he is changing. The magic in his blood will continue to warp him in strange and powerful ways, and this frightens him. But Wynd also comes to understand that he can still choose what type of person he wants to be. He can choose to hide away from the world in fear, or he can spread his wings and soar, secure in the promise that he is loved. Each day, Christians must make the same decision. Life will take us through many strange and frightening changes, and none of us knows who we’ll become on the other side. All we can do in these moments is choose: will we fall away behind high walls, or will we allow faith to transform us, and trust in the promise of Christ’s love?

Taking Flight

The story of Wynd begins with a nightmare but it concludes with a dream. We see Wynd fly into a warm and welcoming sunset. All the fear and shame he’s carried throughout his life has melted away, replaced by strength and joy. It’s hard to believe the grinning young man rising off the final page is the same timid boy we met in the first panels not so long ago.

The moment we begin, when we truly commit to spiritual renewal, is the scariest moment of all. It means stepping into a lifelong journey with Jesus that will break and remake us into something better. It means practicing fellowship alongside other flawed believers and meeting our neighbors with compassion. We’re called to confront our mistakes, repent, and then do it all over again the next day. The journey, not the destination, is how God shapes and changes us into the people we are created to be. Admittedly, some of these changes are painful, but many are liberating. That way, when we finally reach the end of our story, we won’t just know how to walk, we’ll have learned how to soar.


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