“This is a story about something that happened long ago when your grandfather was a child”.*
“‘Where’s Papa going with that axe?’ said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.”**
“Marley was dead, to begin with.”***
Any one of these opening lines can fill your soul with memory and remind you of what you were going through when you read that tale for the first time. The first quote is from The Magician’s Nephew, by C.S. Lewis. Perhaps not as widely known as The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, but its message is just as powerful. Is there someone out there who cares enough about our problems to help us?
The second quote is from Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. A story about how life is not always fair but it’s worth living so we can help others.
The third is arguably the most famous of all, from A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. A powerful message telling us we cannot take anything with us, but we can leave behind a strong impression of kindness and goodness.
All these stories have one thing in common, they are made up. Ebenezer Scrooge was never visited by three ghosts, Charlotte never spun her famous web, and the magician’s nephew never saved his dying mother.
Though none of these characters ever drew breath, a knife slices us to the heart when they suffer. We cheer when they succeed, and we boo when the villain takes a cheap shot at them.
Fiction communicates and draws us in more than straight facts ever could.
There are those who consider themselves purists and believe the Bible is the only book one should ever read. On the surface, this could be considered a noble pursuit, but you would be missing so much. Jesus himself told stories to draw his audience in. Just read Mathew chapter 13. He spoke in parables, riddles, and allegories almost exclusively. If the Son of God wielded stories like a weapon, why shouldn’t we?
God the Father even used stories to convict and captive hearts.
Think about Second Samuel Chapter 12. Nathan the prophet is going to tell David of his depravity. David murdered a man and stole his wife. Instead of stating this and slapping David in the face with his words, Nathan tells a story. Whether this story was purely Nathan’s doing or given to him by God, the truth is it would have been inspired by God’s heart either way.
He tells David a story about a poor man, a protagonist David can sympathize with. This poor man has only a small sheep that he loves as much as a child.
Nathan gives the protagonist something important, a desire. He wants to keep what he loves safe.
Then there was a rich man, the villain of the story, who from the moment he walks on stage is selfish and self-seeking. The villain has a friend visiting and instead of taking food from the large flock he cares nothing for, the villain steals the beloved lamb from the poor man and kills it. He cooks the innocent lamb and gives it to his unsuspecting friend. The inciting incident and tragic ending will change the life of the main character forever.
David upon hearing this tale is outranged. Perhaps he stands up and starts shouting, wishing to rewrite the ending. He doesn’t want the villain to win, he does not want a tragic finale. He wants a happy ending where the hero comes out on top.
Then Nathan says those powerful words. “You are the man!”
If Nathan had come in pointing an accusing finger, David would have found a million excuses for taking Bathsheba as his wife. But because Nathan came with a story, a story that made David care for the main character and shattered his heart when all the main character lost, his guard was taken down. He was open to Nathan’s rebuke because he could see outside himself and from the other man’s perspective. He immediately repents and accepts God’s punishment.
Stories bring us outside ourselves and into the life of another. Through them, we learn how we can better ourselves and stand up to evil. Through characters’ triumphs and defeats, we find courage and resilience inside ourselves.
Fiction is a way to point us back to God. To help us grasp our experiences and put them into words that others can understand. Stories are the lifeblood of humans. We cannot go a single day without watching, listening, or reading about a made-up world with made-up people. Movies, video games, books, short internet reels, and even casual conversations with others are chock-full of stories (whether true or slightly exaggerated). These stories connect us to others and to our Creator.
Look deep within yourself, do you have a story to tell? One about your own life or about the life of someone who lives within your imagination? Can you create a world for this person to live in that will glorify your creator?
Whether it be a seventeen-part book series or a small testimonial video, don’t be afraid to share your story. God placed it inside of you to make the world better. Do not keep them to yourself. Share them with the world, and one day maybe your opening line will strike someone with the same power that your childhood storybooks do with you
*–The Magician’s Nephew, C.S.Lewis
** — Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White
*** — A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
****quotes taken from article https://mediashower.com/blog/incredible-first-sentences-of-25-famous-books/
This article was inspired by Steve Laube’s Keynote address at the 2023 Realm Makers conference.