Story is something I just cannot seem to live without. I just recently finished binge-watching my favorite spy show. I love it to the point that its characters often become like fictional friends. This happens for me when I read books, too. I am currently rereading the Anne Of Green Gables series right now, and I am visiting old friends as I do. I have missed them and the bewitching beauty of L.M. Montgomery’s prose.
This preoccupation with story may seem odd to many and familiar to others. All I know is that life can be very difficult this side of heaven, but story helps. It helps me remember that Good will one day triumph over Evil, even though I have moments of doubt and fear. Story reminds me that there is a future Eden coming, too, and that I am not fully home yet. Ultimately, God’s gift of story reminds me of the fullness of Him.
As I walk softly on this earth, the weight of evil, the power of free will, and the kingdom of darkness that is at work here can weigh me down in ways in which there are no sufficient words to describe. Walking with questions to God about Job-like friends and circumstances, seeing the sicknesses that plunder many of daily life and sometimes actual life, hearing of stories that speak of hard, unspeakable things, aching with the sinful flesh I inhabit—these all are the often wordless burdens of suffering we carry. In our losses and weaknesses, we are left with the Spirit’s groans. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (Romans 8:26)
One of God’s answers to us in these times is the gift of story. All story in its best moments and hopes are pointing us to Him. Stories are told with words, images, and sound, and I have found all mediums of His mercy through story to be so healing.
So, I watch, listen, read, and wonder.
I watch gritty shows where there is fallout because I live with that fallout daily. Seeing the hard is tough, but it also lets me know I’m not crazy. Much uncertainty and darkness does live in our existence. But, the best realistic visions still have a remnant of Good triumphing to some degree over Evil, even if it is only the person experiencing the Evil not succumbing to it while all else around her crumbles.
I watch or read these stark stories to remember not to give up, for the thread of justice will one day be a river. (Amos 5:24) And, I remember that He will not give up until all of creation is reconciled to Himself. (Col. 1:20)
I also read stories like Anne Of Green Gables that have quotes such as this describing the beauty of a hearth-fire, “Anne was….gazing into that joyous glow where the sunshine of a hundred summers was being distilled from the maple cordwood.” (238). When I hear beauty described so acutely, I can see it and feel the warmth of those golden, summer rays hitting my soul. In these moments, I find His Beauty breaking through the veil between this world and the one beyond. I, also, hear it in music, behold it in nature’s majesty, and love to read it in words like these that drip with wonder and grace.
Beauty speaks to me and lets me know that there is something beyond the harshness of life. Wonder glistens with truth, and I cannot look away. One day (if we are in Christ), the magic we glimpse here—the effortless and wordless beauty of His creatures, creation, and Story—will inhabit our souls completely. I need this reminder, too—that there is much more to come!
And, then there is the ultimate Story that I swim in daily—His Story. It, too, is full of both the unflinching reality of the world we live in with all its horrors and sin as well as glimpses of pure wonder that take our breath away with their grace, joy, and all that is to come. Christianity lives in the “both/and” reality of what the world is and what is coming. It tells the truth about the world and its broken followers, but it is always reminding us of the Kingdom to come with its amazing, triumphant, yet servant King—Jesus, whose name literally means, “God saves.”
Jesus is woven in every story of the Bible and is writing Himself in our own story if we let Him. Sometimes, I am good at that and invite Him in, but there are rooms of fear and sin that I struggle to open to Him still. I am a work in progress that won’t be finished until I see Him face-to-face, but His Story will eventually be written in every corner of my being, wrapping every atom of my existence in His righteousness and glory.
So, I persist in my love of story—seeing His great Story behind every good one. As you listen, read, and remember, seek out stories that remind you of Him, too. May we be found in the amazing tale He is weaving, living out our callings and His love to one another. And, as we do, we will be living signs of the Story to come!