“The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories…But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of subcreation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien
“The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact…It happens—at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences…By becoming fact it does not cease to by myth: that is the miracle.” ~ C.S. Lewis
Stories have great power. The power of stories are found in their ability to touch our hearts and stimulate our minds. According to men like Tolkien and Lewis stories convey certain truths that are impossible to learn any other way. It shouldn’t surprise us that people love a good story.
Story can take on many forms. Tolkien and Lewis were immersed in myths and legends that had been preserved in written form. In our culture our stories are mostly visual stories seen on television and the movie screen. I believe one of the reasons they pull us in is because they give us a brief glimpse of the life we were created to live.
One of the primary ideas John Eldredge puts forth in his books is the idea that the stories we love reveal to us the desires God has place on our hearts. For example I love the movies Gladiator and The Magnificent Seven. One of the reasons I love these movies is because I long to have the courage of Maximus and Chris (the leader of the Seven). I want to stare evil in the face and declare, “Over my dead body!” I love Batman. In Batman we discover a man who is willing to sacrifice his life for the sake of an entire city. I want the type of commitment that declares, “I will do whatever it takes to save you!”
The greatest story God uses, the one He used to reveal to us Himself, is history. History is the account of God working in the world. Notice in the quotes above how Tolkien and Lewis both recognize the importance of history.
When we neglect the study of history, when we make stories just about us, we miss out on the bigger story of God. It is through the study and telling of history that we come face to face with the God who is seeking to redeem all of creation.
This idea of history as God’s story was very important to first century Jews, and thus it needs to be very important to us:
This was Stephen’s reply: “Brothers and honorable fathers, listen to me. Our glorious God appeared to our ancestor Abraham in Mesopotamia before he moved to Haran” (Acts 7:2; NLT).
Stephen goes on to give a short account of history to illustrate that Jesus was indeed the One God promised long ago.
So Paul stood, lifted his hand to quiet them, and started speaking. “People of Israel,” he said, “and devout Gentiles who fear the God of Israel, listen to me” (Acts 13:16; NLT).
From that introduction Paul went on to summarize how God worked in history to bring salvation to people. Paul reminded the people that they were a part of a great story. It was the one true story that all other stories are based.
If we are going to reach people in this post-modern, post-Christian, and neo-pagan age that we live in we need to return to story telling. We need to learn how to tell our story, and we need to learn how to tell history so it reveals the story of God.
People are not going to be motivated to change because we can list 20 virtues for Christian living. Lives will not be transformed because of belief and mission statements. People need to catch a larger a vision. It is a vision that is best caught through telling people the Story. People need to realize that they are part of a great Story. Even more importantly they need to know that the type of character they turn out to be is based on the choices they make.
Questions to Consider:
- In what ways does history reveal the great Story of God at work in the world?
- What stories (movies, books, shows) draw out the desire of your heart?
- What type of character do you want to be in this great Story?