Article Aug 17, 2016

Stories are light (in a dark world)

As summer draws to an end and school beckons us into our fall routine, I’m catching my breath a bit.

The past few months have been all manner of strange and surprising. Not much has gone as we’d planned it would (shout-out to James 4:14-16). But the one consistent thing that has seemed to weave together these odd, disjointed days has been a littering of books all over our house and the ritualistic reading of them.

Old books, new books, big ones, little ones, audio books, library-smelly loans, Costco-cheap editions, hand-me-down freebies—books! And while our calendars and our health and the world in general have felt all topsy turvy, we’ve read and read and read.

What is it about a good book? A good story? Kate DiCamillo puts it beautifully in The Tale of Despereaux:

“Why would you save me?” Despereaux asked. “Have you saved any of the other mice?”

“Never,” said Gregory, “not one.”

“Why would you save me, then?”

“Because you, mouse, can tell Gregory a story. Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light.”

We don’t always need a physical book in our hands to feel the light of a story. This summer, my son asked me to retell him the biblical account of Samson again and again. (And again.) He asked for stories from my childhood, and he wanted to re-enact scenes from his audiobooks.

He told endless tales himself, as if our days were the very pages of a book. I asked him to dictate one of his stories to me, and I typed it into my computer with all the gravity of an editor.

Because stories are light. And light is precious in a world so dark.

Especially one story. A story with all the elements of intrigue and romance and rescue. A story that is so epic it makes life worth living.

Before the beginning of time, there was God.

And he spoke us into being, into a perfect world of happiness.

But we questioned his love and goodness and chose a serpent’s lie over our Creator’s truth. And sin had its way with us. Shame and despair and deceit and death replaced pure unadulterated freedom and pleasure.

But God loved us so much that he stepped into our despair and rescued us, made us his again. Now death doesn’t master us, but life does—and an eternity of ever-increasing happiness in his presence awaits us.

Does my son see me light up to tell the Story of All Stories? Does it shape my heart in such a way that I don’t even need to speak words for him to see its light? The gospel story illuminates all of life, not just at the moment we believe it, but also every moment thereafter.

It is indescribably precious in our dark world.

Every good story is an echo of this one. And our own smaller stories find their place within this larger one. When my son has questioned God’s goodness in not giving him a sibling, I tell him the story of my longing years, when I prayed and waited for his daddy and for him (and his eyes sparkle as I tell it). My anguishing wait gave me a story to tell—light to give—to a little boy who already wrestles with “Does he really love me?”

What’s your story? You have one worth telling, you know. Some of its chapters are long, some sad, some happy, some magical, some mundane, some yet unfinished. All the best stories include suffering and waiting, hope and redemption. Yours has all those elements, doesn’t it?

Are you telling your story in light of his?

Are you illuminating your corner of this dark world? Am I?

A couple of years ago, in the thick of a difficult season, I sat with a dear old man who told me the story of his life. I was transported. I was reminded of beauty, faithfulness, kindness and perseverance. I was humbled and strengthened. His words shined light into my darkness.

Let’s tell stories, shall we? His story, our stories and the stories of our grandparents. Let’s read heroes’ biographies and classics and books that tell tall tales, enlarging our hearts for the unseen and the “not-yet.” Let’s remember what God has done and recount it to each other again and again.

Because stories are light. And light is precious in a world so dark.