“Elie Wiesel suggests that ‘God created man because he loves stories.’ So if we’re going to find the answer to the riddle of earth- and our own existence- we’ll find it in stories.”
~Brent Curtis and John Eldredge
During my years as a homeschool mom, I loved to use the parables of Jesus as examples of expert storytelling. Jesus told compelling stories of love lost and love regained. He told stories of farmers, housewives, and even children. He told stories of death and the potential for resurrection. His characters were the common everyday people, his plot lines simple, yet intriguing, he kept his listeners hanging on the edge of their seat as he reached the climax, and drove home a powerful moral lesson with his denouement. All the crucial elements of story are present: character, setting, plot, conflict, and theme. By using these powerful short stories my children would work at breaking down the stories into their elements and explaining how each element worked together to form a powerful story. It was during these years of teaching my children that I became fascinated with God’s use of storytelling to share His story and keep alive the past for generations to come. Also, looking at the Scriptures from a literary perspective, they stand as examples of powerful storytelling, and much can be gleaned by approaching the Bible as just that, really great literature.
After years of homeschooling, I have built up quite a resource library, and the following books are among my favorites. Some I have used during my years as a homeschool mom and others I have used in my own personal journey of faith and I pray that these resources can bring blessings to you as well.
The first is Leland Ryken’s book How to Read the bible as Literature…and get more out of it ISBN # 0310390214. This little book formed the backbone of my homeschool English classes and it is well-worn, dog-eared, annotated, and underlined.
He then delves into each individual genre, explains their elements, and then uses specific Scripture references to demonstrate how approaching the passage from this perspective can bring enhanced meaning to the text.
In this gem of a book, Mr. Ryken walks his readers through how to approach the Bible as literature and breaks the books up into their corresponding genres. He then delves into each individual genre, explains their elements, and uses specific Scripture references to demonstrate how approaching the passage from this perspective can bring enhanced meaning to the text. In the very last chapter, Ryken explains how the individual books of the Bible work together to present the Scriptures as a literary whole. Excellent reading, and I guarantee you will never look at the Scriptures the same way again!
The second resource is Frederick Buechner’s Telling the Truth: The Gospels as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale ISBN #9780060611569. While this book is written from one pastor to another, there is much that can be gained by reading this as a member of the laity. Beuchner takes his reader though the elements of tragedy and comedy and demonstrates how the Gospels fit beautifully into each; however, when looking at the Gospels as strictly one or the other loses the inherent beauty of the texts, something else is needed to draw out the complete meaning. This complete meaning is found by approaching the Gospels as fairy tale. While this may seem offensive to many, give Buechner a chance to explain why the Gospels closely resemble fairy tale. Beuchner writes:
“…what gives them their real power and meaning is the world they evoke. It is a world of magic and mystery, of deep darkness and flickering starlight. It is a world where terrible things happen and wonderful things too. It is a world where goodness is pitted against evil, love against hate, order against chaos, in a great struggle where often it is hard to be sure who belongs to which side because appearances are endlessly deceptive” (81).
When approached with an inquiring mind who desires to gain more out daily devotional time, this is an excellent resource!
The third, and quite possibly one of my favorites, is Daniel Taylor’s The Healing Power of Stories: Creating Yourself Through the Stories of Your Life ISBN #0385480504. This, more than any of the previous books, has deeply touched my heart and helped me to look at all literature as a chance to see how my life could be enriched by the characters that live within the treasures on my fiction shelf. Taylor structures his chapters based on the elements of story and walks his readers though the characters, plot, setting, and conflicts of their own, very unique stories and how understanding our lives as a story help us to conquer the demons of the past and look forward to a glorious future. He also includes a special chapter that discusses how various worldviews distort the stories of our lives and how we can recognize the harmful ways in which worldview affects our plot line, setting, character, and create conflict. A great read and I highly recommend it!
Taylor structures his chapters based on the elements of story and walks his readers though the characters, plot, setting, and conflicts of their own, very unique stories and how understanding our lives as a story help us to conquer the demons of the past and look forward to a glorious future.
Finally, and I saved the very best for last, is Brent Curtis and John Eldredge’s The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God ISBN #9780785273424 and the The Sacred Romance: Workbook and Journal ISBN #9780785268468 (I highly recommend purchasing the workbook with book, the experience is so much sweeter when the chapters are read in conjunction with the questions and activities in the workbook and the experience is enhanced even more by the suggested music and movies, as well as purchasing some of the recommended print resources to extend the journey.) Words cannot even begin to express what this book has meant to me personally. I picked it up after a colleague recommended it to me and it just sat on my bookshelf for about a year before I finally opened it up and began reading…after that I could not put it down. I’ve laughed, cried, and enjoyed savoring some of the sweeter memories of my childhood. What Curtis and Eldredge have done is equate the loss of a vibrant faith to a loss of an understanding of life as a story complete with setting, characters, plot, and conflict. There is a real enemy who seeks to destroy our stories, and the arrows he uses are incredibly effective. It is when these arrows are placed in the context of life as a story that it all begins to make sense; recognizing the arrows help the reader connect crucial events to painful outcomes. It is a beautiful journey and the authors do a wonderful job of helping the reader reconstruct and reestablish their very own stories. This book really has the potential to be a life-changing experience (especially if done in a group study), it truly was for me.
It is my prayer that these resources will be a blessing to you just as they have been to me. When looking at life as a story with God as author, everything changes.
Blessings & prayers,