I love stories. I think most of us do.
I still recall some of the very first stories that were read to me or told to me. I actually recall the illustrations in some of the books and how they captured my attention. (This was long before Dr. Seuss and so many others that became a part of my children and grandchildren’s lives.) The stories that were read to me gave me a view outside my own small world at the time and took me on adventures from the safe haven of the couch next to whichever parent was reading to me.
I was blessed to have many Bible stories in the mix of stories I heard others read to me as well. How grateful I am to have been given the gift of parents who took moments to read to me very early. As a result, I was drawn to love and enjoy stories and books at such an early age that I looked forward to reading my own and developed a lifelong love and habit of delving into the pages of books.
Even though I sometimes read from my iPad and computer, I still love the feel of a book in my hand and enjoy the quality of good paper in the pages as I turn them.
Some of my favorite stories are also ones that were told to me. Some were funny that had been truly ‘made up’ and made me laugh and giggle, but others were ones that became increasingly precious to me. These were ones my parents would tell of other times and places from their own childhood that gave me a better sense of who I was and where I came from in addition to learning who my parents were before they were my parents!
There are certainly many reasons to read and I think I have delighted in or used reading for any and all of them at different points.
Reading, reading stories, can give us information, expose us to truth, challenge us to think or to gain a new perspective, take us on adventures, and encourage us to dream.
I think the stories we love most are the great stories.
Great stories take us beyond ourselves and offer us a vista of the larger purposes of life, the larger battles being played out, and the larger visions beyond our own front door. They inspire us. They give us hope and we return to them again and again.
Too often we can get caught up in smaller stories. We are bombarded by small stories, but great stories are unfolding all around us. Small stories discourage us, but great stories inspire us.
What do I mean “small stories”? I think small stories are things like the workplace dickering and politics that wear us down or the nuisance things that happen when we are handling the necessary details of life like carpool snags, last or minute demands that happen at the worst times.
Small stories are a part of life, but most often they cause the focus to be on what we are feeling, thinking, or doing. These are sometimes very important to attend to, but we can easily get mired down in them and lose sight of the larger story we are a part of and the role we play in that story. We start looking at the ‘seen’ story as the only story and can easily lose hope of anything ever being different, better, or more. We lose sight of the unseen story.
Even when we look outside ourselves these days, small stories seem to dominate the headlines that focus on petty things while so much in the world appears to be eroding more each day in whatever geographic place we choose to look. We wish for a true hero, not the latest athlete of fame or the latest entertainment star. We want someone larger than that, one whose character will not dissolve before our eyes.
Small stories can prevent us from seeing that we do have a hero. He came to earth more than two thousand years ago and His character is spotless. It is His story that we who know Him are a part of and because of Him we have the opportunity to even play the role of hero in different ways and places as we represent Him day by day. We battle with and for Him for the cause of truth and righteousness carrying high His banner of love.
The Bible is chocked full of the very best stories ever written and they are BIG stories. In them we find epic adventures, great battles, and romantic love stories. They offer us clear clues about walking through shadows and dark places. They offer us hope, purpose, and vision in the midst of and beyond the small everyday stories that hold our focus captive.
I love the lines by J.R.R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings (The Two Towers) where Sam is speaking to Frodo in the midst of a dark time to encourage his heart. Those very words serve us well even now:
“It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened.
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something. “
Frodo asks what they are holding onto and Sam responds:
“That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”
And so it is for us…
Will we turn back or will we hold onto the larger story?
Will we be steadfast in the battle even though it be in the midst of darkness, danger, and shadow?
We are here now, serving at His pleasure, occupying until He returns.
He’s risked it all for us. Will we surrender what He fought to give us?