Stories save us

It was a night full of the promise of Fall; I had just one baby strapped to me (the others were blissfully home with a babysitter) and I had my husband at my side, a cup of hot coffee in my hands, and we walked into an independent bookshop. Cue the Hallelujah Chorus because this scene is totally my happy place. There’s something visceral and tactile and full of hope when you walk into a room full of books, with their pretty dust jackets and the soft overhead lighting that you get in the smaller bookstores. With little reading nooks that beckon for you to move in, curl up with a throw and a cup of tea and just read.

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When we walked through the bookstore and as I fingered the new books with their crispness still waiting, it hit me. Each new book holds out a promise. That’s what I find so thrilling about books and stories and writing. That I can be different, that I can begin anew, that I can get lost in a narrative that is so much bigger than me. Not just that I’ll get lost in a great tale of adventure, but that in reading, that my life will swell beyond the vacuuming and the monotony of making dinner daily, and I’ll be changed.

Because stories not only matter, they get into our blood and our heads and echo with meaning as we read and re-read them. Little circling labyrinths, where each reading deepens and opens them up until they bloom softly and confidently like flowers. As I walked the paths of the bookstore, lingering by enticing covers and feeling the heft of what-might-be in my hands, I really was longing for redemption. To be taken from my mundane dailyness and catapulted into another world, one more contained and fascinating than the one that greets my tired eyes each morning. To move beyond the now, with its lists and expectations to the lovingly lilting pleasure of story.

Kids get it. You see them lean forward around the campfire. Or, as my children do, dress up as High King Peter from Narnia or fashion swords to be a throne warden in The Wingfeather Saga. You can still feel the power and pull of stories as a child; mystery, magic and legends mingle with the realities of breakfast, chores, and trips to the library. All part and parcel of life. But as we grow in experience, we exchange the magic for the mundane. Where specks of dust are not pixie dust but just…dust. Where dappled light becomes nothing more than the cold shade or warm sun.

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Maybe what we lose as we age, as the magic becomes “unreal” and stories are relegated to boxes in the attic, is not only wonder but also, more deeply, we turn redemption into a list of propositions that we think we can fulfill. That is, we become convinced that what changes us is our capacity to have the appropriate information, or the right number of steps, or enough money to accomplish our goals. The new narrative of redemption for experienced adults then is of trying harder, working harder, or if that fails, moving on.

But, this life that we all get to live, it’s all really about story, not propositions or having it all together or following my to-do list. As a Christian, I’ve thrown my lot into the Story. It’s a messy story, full of robbers, thieves, liars, prostitutes and tight-lipped rule-followers who get stopped in their tracks by giant fish or blinded by light. It’s full of murder and shame and confusion and worship. It’s full of grief and sex and poetry. And get this, we all get invited — whether you’re a runaway or a rule-follower — to a feast where the food is fresh and plentiful and the wine flows. Where every tear is wiped away, where mourning turns to dancing, and the sun shines forever. That’s a story that thrills and that I want to be a part of. It’s a story that makes sense of the endless repetition of laundry, and dinner, and caring for children; it’s a story that makes sense of going to the office day after day. Because only when our hearts and minds and bodies are captured by story does our tiny part in it make sense.

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This is the third post for the Write 31 days challenge, where I’ll be writing every day through the month of October. I’m excited to see what comes of this daily practice. I’d love for you to comment, pin the above image, share posts and subscribe to receive posts to the right in the sidebar as we work through these things together. Posts in the series are all linked to from the first post.

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8 Comments

  1. Yes! I love the way you describe what it’s like to get “lost” in a story. This post makes makes me want to put on my sweatpants, pour some coffee and curl up in my favorite reading chair!

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