Story, the timeless expression of reality and life, has become a buzzword in modern Christianity. Donald Miller’s blog, http://storylineblog.com/, is the prime example that comes to mind. And I think this trend is for the best. Everyone loves a good story, not only because it’s a familiar construct –conflict, climax, resolution– but because it captures and expects and celebrates the natural tensions of the good and the bad in life. Besides reading great stories and trying to live a good one, I find myself returning to Madeline L’Engle’s stellar book “Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art” when considering story. Here are some of her musings on the subject that are particularly brilliant.
“And I knew as a child, that it was through story that I was able to make some small sense of the confusions and complications of life. The sound of coughing from my father’s gas-burned lungs was a constant reminder of war and its terror. At school I read a book about the Belgian babies impaled on bayonets like small, slaughtered animals. I saw pictures of villages ravaged by the Boches. The thought that there could ever be another war was a source of deep fear. I would implore my parents, ‘there won’t be another war, will there?’ My parents never lied to me. They tried to prepare me for this century of war, not to frighten me. But I was frightened, and I tried to heal my fear with stories, stories which gave me courage, stories which affirmed that ultimately love is stronger than hate. If love is stronger than hate, then war is not all there is. I wrote, and I illustrated my stories. At bedtime my mother told me more stories. And so story helped me to learn to live. Story was in no way an evasion of life, but a way of living life creatively instead of fearfully…lie and story are incompatible. If it holds no truth, then it cannot truly be story. And so I knew that it was in story that I found flashes of truth which make us free.”
“Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving. Why does anybody tell a story? It does indeed have something to do with faith, faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically. We look at the world around us, and it is a complex world, full of incomprehensible greed, irrationality, brutality, war, terrorism–but also self-sacrifice, honor, dignity–and in all of this we look for, and usually find, pattern, structure, meaning. Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth.”