This last weekend I sat in a crowded theater with plush seats to take in a film. For the twenty-five some odd minutes of previews before the movie, my senses were attacked with varying story lines and advertisements. I felt a little beat up by the previews, and spent the first bit of the movie thinking about why that was so.
Story is a powerful thing to human beings. The heart is pulled to and fro by our emotions, hopes, fears, and desires. It seems that there is a popular and endless stream of story lines that consist of dark matter, twisted views and an interest in whatever horror the writers come up with. Sitting through a viewing of these previews, with murdering stepfathers followed by the collapse of mankind as we know it – I was a little disappointed. Those stories build nothing into life, but speak of the destruction of it and the perversion of the fabric of humanity – and we laud it, view it, soak it in and then write it off as entertainment. They represent a large portion of the fodder that draws us into a story that really goes nowhere, merely offering escape and cheap entertainment – and I don’t mean the price of the ticket. I would say it is akin to the consistent checking of our Facebook news feeds and our twitter accounts. The incessant email checking and the blackberry buzzing. Slight distractions from the present day, and rarely pushing us forward and towards engaging the world around us.
The very language of story is what is so important. You and I are meant to dream. We have been given beautifully powerful imaginations by God to picture incredible things, visualize great truths, and feel deeply. The ability to sympathize with someone, to move our minds and hearts towards their emotional state is to identify with their story and feel the impact of it. We then move from there, understanding their story a bit more, loving them in it as we walk with them through it.
There is something inside each of us that resonates with a story of hope. There is a depth in reconciliation, restoration, and (as cliché as it may sound) happy endings. We want to see the hope fulfilled. We want to see life as it should be, because we all know the weight of sin and the fracture that we live with every day. We yearn for this at the core of our being – because we long for things to be set right. We long for it, but rarely believe it to be true. It is easier for me to believe the horror of the next thriller than it is that the world will be set aright one day that is coming. One I have seen proven on the nightly news, the other I await and pray for. Frederick Buechner, in Telling the Truth, writes that, “(we) are prepared for everything except for the fact that beyond the darkness of (our) blindness there is a great light,” and that we are “prepared for the worst but rarely the best, prepared for the possible but rarely for the impossible. The good news breaks into a world where the news has been so bad for so long that when it is good nobody hears it much except for a few.”
There is a vital part of being human that we neglect when we disregard the power of story, and the reality of what is beyond our daily experience. We readily except the imaginative in some arenas of life, and ever so readily dismiss it in others. The core of our souls that are created by God, built by his wisdom, precision, and care still longs for its self to be set aright, for the world to be renewed, and for the day in which it is coming. This is our hope, this is what we look towards, the world being renewed in its entirety by God as he restores his creation, and we, his creatures. We have this hope in the Gospel, we have this story in our lives because it is the story we have been born into. Granted we are “but bit players, the Fifth Servant and Seventh Footman.” (Wright, 27)
Put a story of darkness in front of me and watch my natural self be entertained. That’s not surprising. Speak to me a story of hope, of redemption, of things being set right – and hear my heart well with passion as the dry places cry out for it. I know it to be right, I know these things to be of substance, and you do too. Ask me to believe in what would seem almost too good to be true – and watch it be difficult, and require faith on my part – because it is hard to believe at times that the goodness is really there. But the core of my being believes, and I know it to not only be good, but to be true indeed. It is no fairy tale.
Christ’s work on the cross has enabled us to know the power of the story we are in, because we have been brought from death, slavery, and darkness into light, freedom, and life. This is the story we tell. And let us not shrink back from the depth and the wild riches of the Gospel and the story of God’s work in our redemption. There is no greater story. No writer could improve upon the reality of God’s work and masterful plan. Let us tell the story, and tell it well. The virgin birth. The calming of the seas. The shed blood. Christ Jesus, our Lord, crucified, dead and buried – resurrected and now alive at the right hand of the Father. Victory over sin and death – our lives bought and made new.
Indeed, there is power in story – and we are to be about the story. We’re caught in it, and it is incredible. It is the story of redemption.
Buechner, Frederick. Telling the Truth.
Wright, N.T. Justification.