photo © 2009 Dave Heuts | more info (via: Wylio)
I love stories—the exposition, the rising action, the climax, the denouement. On cold Autumn nights, I like nothing better than to wrap up in some snugly pajamas and read a story. When I began studying literature in college and graduate school, I learned how to analyze, critique, and argue my interpretation of a literary piece. Always, delving into a magical story, filling my mind with characters, plot shifts, and myriads of fanciful locales. Story feeds my soul. Intrinsic to my love of stories is my faith. The two loves are so intertwined that I do not know where one begins or one ends.
My faith is based in story, a narrative of fairytale love, redemption, and salvation ending in grace. A romance of sorts, but this romance of faith filled story didn’t always read this way. I wish I could say that my faith and story remained rooted in simplicity, but it didn’t. Before the denouement, the rising action always muddies the waters, stirring up doubts and questions, critiquing the simplicity of faith. Doubts eat away at the purity of the faith story till I am left with mismatched pieces of the tale. Questions, doubts, all eroding the walls of certainty of faith. Somedays, I envy those who have a simple faith, who can believe without questions. I cannot. I must ask questions, struggle with doubt, and leave the faith narrative behind for awhile. But the trajectory of this story returns back to faith to its grace filled romance of salvation.
The return to faith can be credited to my love of story. When hurt deeply by the church, I turned to literature, to stories to fill the void left once my faith community had been ripped apart. Sometimes, the best Christians have never breathed a single breath, never walked a step on this earth, but their faith can be read more clearly than most people who fill a pew. I think of Jane Austen’s character Miss Bates in Emma whose wits are dull, radiates an unearthly kindness. Perhaps, I turn again Sidney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities who seemingly sacrifices himself for the better good of his love and her child. I see the faith story continue in T.S. Eliot’s poem Journey of the Magi or Aslan’s goodness. All live on the printed page of story, faith story—not one has really lived.
Maybe, this is the tragedy of the church’s faith story. Better Christians reside in the pages of novels, poems than on the church pews. Yes, perfecting a character out of written words is far easier than living out this faith, but shouldn’t we be more concerned that our faith story is distorted so no one can read it? Or worse, no one wants to read our faith story.