Read Part 1 here.
Some might say we love stories because they offer escape, a brief trip out of a meaningless and messed-up world into one that makes more sense. Certainly stories can be a form of escape—I know I’ve used them as such. But the best stories, the good and true ones (even if they didn’t “really happen”), I think we love not because they show an unrealistic view of life but because they somehow give us a clearer glimpse of true reality. As every writer knows, stories are built on conflict, on problems, on struggle between good and evil. But they also give us hope—hope that though the struggle may be long and costly, good will prevail. Wrong will be righted. Love will win out. The rightful King will return and His reign be restored.
A guest preacher at our church recently spoke on how the whole earth is full of God’s glory (Isaiah 6). Explaining how the Hebrew word for “glory” has the connotation of “weight,” he urged us to keep our eyes open for the weight of God that fills the earth, even and especially in places where our modern eyes (at least in the West) might not expect to find Him—in His creation, in the miracle of grain growing from seed, in rainfall, in movies that bring tears or chills for reasons we can’t fully explain. And he commented how it is in the arts that we often see God’s beauty distilled for a clearer view.
I think that is a bit of what story does. In Nicholas Nickleby and Narnia, in Les Miserables and Lord of the Rings, even in the stories my scribbling friends and I are writing now, the glory and hope and truth and beauty of God press through, explicitly and implicitly, touching and drawing people’s hearts, even if they don’t know what it is that makes them thrill and chill and cry. And maybe, once their hearts are softened, they might be more willing to hear more about the greatest Storyweaver of all.
I can’t even quite find the words to express fully what I mean, what my heart senses but can’t express the words for. But think about your favorite stories, those you not only like but deeply love, those you return to over and over. They show it better than I can tell it.
Perhaps that’s what it is about a story.