P.E.A.R.s™ – Periodic Encouragement And Reminders™
The Magic of Stories ©
Robert E. Alderman, Jr.
Do you remember when you were a kid how great it was to hear the words: Once upon a time…?
If you were like me, every experience that began with those words (or their equivalent) immediately increased your adrenaline flow and brought your attention to a focus ten levels higher than it had been before you heard or read that wondrous, shorthand pronouncement of “get-ready-something-great-is-going-to-be-shared”.
Why is it that for adults and children alike stories have such magic?
Some of the answer lies in the entertainment “packaging” which almost by definition is part of every story that’s ever been told. (It’s somewhat like a present; meaning, the story form provides the same excitement created by bows and colorful wrapping paper covering a box with a gift inside.)
However, the real magic of the story process (like a beautifully wrapped present) comes from the value found inside.
Whatever the scientific explanation might be (and I’m sure there is one if we were interested in knowing it), just about every man, woman and child enjoys, learns more from and responds better to stories than they do to propositional instruction.
People will remember the model of your life in how you lived it, much longer than they will the glitter of your financial “successes” and accomplishments. Or, returning momentarily to the gift analogy, it’s the thought that matters.
I personally, however, like the way John Eldredge explains the reason for the effectiveness of the story process in his book, “Waking the Dead”: Propositions [straight statements of fact] speak to the mind, but when you tell a story, you speak to the heart.
A proposition is helpful for certain things. Sacramento is the capitol of California; water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, your shoes are in the front room, under the sofa. But propositions fail when it comes to the weightier things in life.
While it is a fact that the Civil War was fought between the years 1861 and 1865 and that hundreds of thousands of men died, you don’t even begin to grasp the reality of the Civil War until you hear the stories.
This is even much more so the case when it comes to the truth of the Bible. God loves you; you matter to Him. That is a fact, stated as a proposition. Why then, aren’t Christians the happiest people on earth? It hasn’t reached all their hearts. Facts stay lodged in the mind only – they don’t speak at the level we need to hear, which is the heart.
When you hear or read the greatest story ever told, the Bible, the message is shared in some instances as propositions. However, in far greater frequency, its truths are presented as stories and parables. I don’t think anyone would ever doubt that God knew what He was doing when He presented His instructions for living an abundant life in story book form more so than as a text book.
True stories, of course, as used by God in the Bible are always of greater impact and value in the long run than are fictional tales. Also, the greatest stories of all time in the sense of how they capture our attention and move our hearts, share virtually the same plot.
Boy finds girl, boy loses girl, boy fights for girl, boy wins girl back – is perhaps the most moving story line of all. The second most compelling to us (founded not really on a different plot, but only a variation of the first), involves covert battles in which an inconspicuous hero begins a rebellion and then fights a war to overcome injustice, transform a wrongful condition and restore his people to their rightful glory. Sometimes the story line is about an individual person and his or her struggles, yet the elements and steps are the same.
Think for a moment about some of your favorite stories. For children they might include Beauty and Beast, Cinderella or The Chronicles of Narnia. Teens and young adults may gravitate to Star Wars, The Matrix, or The Lord of the Rings. Perhaps for the older generation it would be Titanic, Braveheart, Gladiator, Cutting Edge, Hoosiers, etc.
Using the titles you might put on your own list of favorite stories, see if you can identify the theme, the message, the moral, the hope and the triumph running through them that grabs your heart and moves your inner most feelings of rightness.
You know why that is and where it comes from? God.
In our very being, spirit, soul and heart, God has planted in us the inherent knowledge that we once enjoyed a closeness with Him; have fallen away from that rightful position; are in a war to recover our glory as children of His family and image, and that a covert battle occurring on our behalf and to which we are invited to join, is being lead by Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Transformation, rescue and restoration with hard fought victories when the focus is consistent with God and His holiness are found in the theme of virtually every story in the Bible – and more importantly, in the overall message and offer of the Bible from beginning to end.
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Why are we enchanted by tales of transformation?, asks John Eldredge in his book. Why is it the essential part of any great story? Because it is the secret of Christianity, and Christianity is the secret to the universe.
He then shares several lines from Cinderella where the prince, after searching all through the kingdom for the maiden whose foot would fit the glass slipper, finds her and overcomes the resistance of the evil stepsisters (representing the devil) who had tried to keep them apart:
And Cinderella had to be called and then went and bowed before the King’s son, who gave her the glass slipper. Then she seated on a stool, drew her foot out of the heavy wooden shoe, and put it into the slipper, which fit like a glove. And when she looked up and the King’s son looked at her face, he recognized the beautiful maiden who had danced with him and he cried, “This is my true bride!” He then took Cinderella on his horse and rode away with her.
As in Titanic – when all the glory of that wondrous ship was gradually restored at the end of the movie in the majestic ballroom within its steel hull at the bottom of the ocean and the young maiden all in white walks down the stairway to resume the joy of life in spirit that had been lost with the iceberg sinking – God’s story and offer in the Bible is even greater.
May you read His Book with all its chapters, adventures, propositions and teachings – not just for the magic of its stories, but as the Greatest Story Ever Told and receive into your heart His offer to restore your glory in Christ forever.
Have a great week! (And to my family, love Dad)
Orig. publication 5/13/05 – Updated 1/3/17
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