session three: what good is a story?
by Elizabeth de Barros
I am pleased to welcome Becky Pliego as our guest contributor for this session. Becky is a Mexican living the Christian life under God’s sun and by His grace. She loves her man and her four children, who make her sing for joy as they are all walking in the Lord. Becky enjoys reading big books as well as small books, but always accompanied with a cup of coffee and friends to converse about the words she discovers.
“We should favor the short story and adore the poem.”
ISN’T OUR LIFE LIKE A SERIES of short stories? Many events, many seasons, many characters. Some we love and some we don’t. Some characters remain in our lives forever, and some are gone before we had ever wished them to leave.
We plan our lives just like Barbara Kingsolver, just like our neighbor, our friend; just like those who seek God and those who are always running away from Him. We “put a tidy plan on our calendars,” and without a warning we all are hit by the unexpected. The squares on our wall calendar seem to fall down as pieces from a puzzle and we feel like we don’t know how to live our days anymore. And through it all, and as best we can, we keep trying to read the stories within the story.
Kingsolver says: “The problem is, life is like that. Editors, readers — all of us have to work reading into our busy lives.” I agree. We can’t remain spectators in our own story. We, as long as our heart keeps beating, are part of a bigger drama. But how can we accurately read this story?
Only through the lens of the Word of God.
In the Scriptures we find out who is the Author of the storms at sea, why there is a rainbow, who we are, why we were created, how babies are woven in their mom’s womb, and why there are seasons to laugh and others to mourn. We keep reading the Word, and the bandages from our eyes fall down and the pages don’t look like paper any more, they seem more like a mirror, and we see ourselves — our sin — and we start to understand.
We certainly don’t live in a “white room with no emergencies.” We live in a real, broken world where sickness happens, tears fall from our eyes, pain pierces the heart, and the unexpected happens. All of us, God’s people and those who hate Him, live on Planet Earth, bound by time and walking around in a fragile body. The difference in how we live our lives is that we know God’s people are not lost in the story. We know how it ends. We know that in the end, all things, all of them, work for good for those who have been called according to His purpose and love Him (Romans 8:28).
The author asks, “What makes writing good?” And then she answers, “The lyrical description, the arresting metaphor, the dialogue that falls so true on the ear it breaks the heart, the plot that winds up exactly where it should.” And as I read, I had to make a pause here to consider. How am I living my life? How would those around me describe me? What kind of metaphor am I portraying? Oh my dialogue! If I could only listen to myself more often! What words do I say? Do they break the hearts of those whom I love or do they build them up?
A BIBLICAL LENS:
If we all, the redeemed and the unbeliever both, go through the same kind of trials, through the same unexpected changes in a story’s plot, how are we supposed to read the story, to live differently?
First and foremost, we must know God’s Word. He is the Author and Narrator. He has spoken, He has come, the Son is the Word Incarnated and has lived among us to show us how to live. We are not wanderers.
So, let us open our Bibles and read, read, read with wide-open eyes praying that we will have eyes to see and ears to hear. His Word, let us not forget, is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105).
Second, let us remember with a grateful heart that God’s story is wonderful because it is a redemptive story. In His story, sin is sin; but there is hope for the sinner. God changes stone hearts into hearts made of flesh; He turns schemes upside down , tears down walls. He brings storms and big fish to swallow the prideful (at least for three days, until he repents). God holds in His hand the king’s heart as well as that of the servant to do what He has ordered to happen.
And lastly, let us not live like those who don’t have hope. Let us live with a grateful heart, knowing that soon we will be seated at the Lord’s Table with all the Redeemed. Oh, what a beautiful end to the most wonderful story!