Confession: I love to read. I will read anything that engages my mind and my heart…thrillers, mysteries, fantasies, romance, the thicker the better. I’m one of those geeks who doesn’t have crushes on movie stars, but rather book characters—and this was way before Twilight came out. (Ladies, High King Peter is mine. Just saying. The one in the book, not any of the movies.)
However, even for those who would rather eat live scorpions than pick up a book, the lure of story is inescapable. We live in it. Characters, setting, action, conflict. Life is a story, and we interact with the world around us in terms of story. “Hi! How are you? How was your weekend?” “Fine” is not an acceptable answer. We want to know what happened. Story is one of the main languages of the human heart, maybe even the primary one.
When the story around us gets too boring or stressful, we escape into fictional stories, or perhaps historical ones. Whether through books or movies, fiction or nonfiction, we love a good tale. We love stories that help us make sense of our own lives, that promise us there is good in the world and remind us of what it means to be human.
Think about this for a minute. What stories do we love most? What movies are we drawn to, the ones we watch over and over and never get bored?
If you’ve ever taken a literature class, you may have seen a diagram that looks something like this:
This is the basic structure of a story. The exposition (or set-up), the crisis, the rising action, the climax, the falling action, the resolution. It’s pretty typical, really. Things are good, then something terrible happens, and the hero must go on a journey or some sort of mission to fix things. There is a great battle or moment of decision, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Finally, the battle is won, and things settle down into a new kind of good.
Does any of this sound familiar? Could it possibly be that our fiction isn’t so fictional after all, but is actually rooted in something deeper? Let’s take a look at another, much older Story for a minute.
Once upon eternity, there were Three, in joyous, peaceful unity. Life was perfection itself. Then—treachery, and a fierce war began. Armies clashed among the stars, until the Three did something the traitor did not expect. A new battlefield was named, a little blue ball hanging in space. It was untouched by the war, perfect in simplicity, joy, and freedom. It was the ideal target for the traitor, and he attacked with a vengeance. The little people the Three so longed to treasure and protect sold their world and their souls to the traitor. Beauty was spoiled by horror, and they became slaves and prisoners of evil itself. The war raged on.
The Three made plans for an ambush, a daring mission that the traitor would be unable to stop. The Three sent themselves down to the people’s world, in the form of One, to enter the battle personally and rescue the prisoners. The people were fascinated, but afraid and angry. They did not understand. The traitor used them to kill the One, and he celebrated his victory. Little did he know that it was that very death that would break the chains he had spent millennia forging. Triumphant, the One returned to life, and declared that anyone who would come with him would be free. Many did, but most had forgotten how to be free. The victory was won, but as long as the prisoners refused to claim their freedom, still the war raged on. It rages yet today.
It will be over one day. Someday, the Three will shatter all illusions and restore the bliss that was intended from the start. In the meantime, the rescued ones celebrate their freedom and join the Three in battle, pushing back the rebellion and waiting breathlessly for that final glorious day.
This is our Story.
Do you see it now? Do your hear in that great Story some of the things you love about your own favorite tales? Adventure. Danger. A hero and a villain. Rescue. Sacrifice. Homecoming. The list goes on.
The Story of the universe is retelling itself in our stories.
The Princess Bride. The Lord of the Rings. Beauty and the Beast. The Matrix. Star Wars. Even Twilight and Harry Potter. All contain threads of this Great Story. We love the books and movies we do because somewhere in our deepest soul, they remind us of the Story we were born to live.
And of course, the Story I just told above doesn’t even begin to talk about the Great Romance that runs through it all. The One calls the people his Bride, and he loves her so passionately that he would give anything to win her love, up to and including his own life. The dream of his heart is to be united to her in perfect bliss, free to love unhindered for all eternity.
Why are we drawn to stories? Because story is the language of the soul. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God “has set eternity in their heart.” We have an instinctive sense of this Great Story imprinted inside of us.
Keep that in mind the next time you watch your favorite movie or snuggle up with a good book. Where do you see echoes of our Story inside it? How do the stories you love illuminate the Great Story which you are now living?