Tell me a story.
In this century, and moment, of mania,
Tell me a story.
Make it a story of great distances, and starlight.
The name of the story will be Time,
But you must not pronounce its name.
Tell me a story of deep delight.
-Robert Penn Warren
I picked up a ragged, used book in a bookshop one time because I liked the author and it was cheap. I then proceeded to read through the whole thing twice in a month. Something resonated with me in that story, even changed my life – something I’ve since learned all good stories do. The book was Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. Currently my husband and I are reading it out loud together. This will be the sixth time I’ve read it in five years.
Why do we love certain books, plays, or movies? We all have those that move us time and time again. Though their beauty may come from many aspects of artistry – the cinematography, the raw dialogue, the poetic insight – I would venture to say that we love them for the story they tell.
Storytelling is human. Stories help us to make sense of the world. They can fill us with hope, ambition, sorrow, or fear; can inspire in us repentance or goodwill; and can harden or dissolve our resolution. Ray Cummings wrote that “Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.” We experience life as a string of unfolding events. Story makes sense of those events. “The name of the story will be Time,” wrote Robert Penn Warren.
We see in our own lives how grief followed folly, or how redemption followed grief. We see where love was sown and what it grew into. We see how people have come into our lives and changed us. In fact we are all storytellers, for we are always telling ourselves the story of our own lives – making sense of what has happened to us and where we are now.
And we, as Christ followers, have an obligation to do more than just tell ourselves or others our own story. We have an obligation to listen to good stories, to tell good stories, and to live a good story.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.” In stories we find images of virtue that can provide the needed strength to do hard but worthy things we otherwise would not do. When a thing worth doing is hard to finish, or we are tempted to give up, we remember Odysseus, or Frodo, or Andy Dufresne, and we desire to endure our trials as they did. We learn from them not just that virtue and vice exist, but also what they taste like. We learn to love good things.
In the movie “Amazing Grace” about William Wilberforce, there is a poignant line: “We’re talking about the truth, so we should hand it out to people, drop it from the church roofs, paint pictures of it, make songs about it, make bloody pies out of it!”
The story of Wilberforce is one especially significant for those who are pro-life. We cannot deny that we live in a world where single human beings have defeated great evils and changed the course of history. Wilberforce is a real-life Frodo – he destroyed the ring. We cannot help but be inspired. So when we are weighed down by the evils we see around us – by the plight of the unborn in our age – remember brave knights and heroic courage. Remember that dragons can be beaten.
And tell others the story.