Ok fine. I’ll admit it. I’m an NPR junkie. I can’t tell you any of the Top 40 hits on the pop charts, but I can tell you exactly what time This American Life is on every weekend. And I can identify the news anchors just by their voices in about three seconds flat.
The Moth is one of my favorite NPR shows. In case you’re unfamiliar with it, the premise of the show is simple. It’s all about telling stories. The stories are told with no notes in front of a live audience. More than once, I’ve been sitting in my car, parked in my driveway, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying, unable to turn it off until I’ve heard the end of the story.
What is it about stories that do this to us? What is it about them that make us laugh and cry and think? Why are stories important?
Stories can be found in many different mediums. Books, television, and films provide us with a wealth and range of stories. Fiction, nonfiction, tales of high adventure, legends, epics, dramas, comedies, mysteries.
Why do we love them? Because stories reveal our own yearning for something deeper.
Our entire life is one grand story. Some of us will have far-reaching effects, others of us will move in our small circles only. Some of us will be remembered in the annals of history, others quickly forgotten. But each of us has a story to tell, a yarn to spin, a life to live. And each of our stories is inextricably entwined with the stories of those around us.
Stories are guides along the path, lampposts and signs to help lead us along.
Now unless you’re an English major or a literary type, you probably don’t actively approach stories looking specifically for themes and story structure. But each of us knows the pull of a good story. That impulse that keeps us up far too late saying, “Just one more chapter,” until the book is finished. That inclination that coaxes us into plunking ten bucks down at the movie theater without a second thought.
We are looking for hope in the stories. We are looking for some sort of pattern, some sort of answer, something that makes sense to help us interpret our own lives.
Can I introduce you to the best storyteller in existence? God, the Author of Creation. He is the one who invented the concept. And His story, the story of the Gospel, is the template for all the good stories.
Why do superhero stories resonate with us? There are monsters out there and evil too big for us to handle. We need a savior.
Why do romantic comedies continue to make money? We are lonely. We want some sort of assurance that there is love out there for us. And there is no greater pursuit than that of Christ wooing His Bride.
Why do we embrace stories that make us cry? Because there is deep heartache and sadness in this world. We acknowledge the brokenness. And we know that Jesus wept too.
Why do we enjoy comedies? Laughter and a cheerful heart are wonderful medicine and do us good.
Stories help us understand and see things that we may be blind to otherwise. And indeed, stories point us to that great story—the old, old story—like lampposts full of light, shining on a darkened path.
One of my favorite parts of the stories told on The Moth is the moment when the story makes sense, when the listener understands why this story needed to be told, when the point of the story crystallizes. It is sometimes hard to see those moments in my own life. It’s difficult to be able to point to the rising action, the climax, the falling action. Often, my life just feels like a jumbled rambling mess with no discernible narrative. But I’m not the storyteller here. I just have confidence in the One who is.
Pay attention to the stories, for they help us understand our own stories. And they help us grasp the Big Story. And I know that His stories always end well because all of His stories coalesce around the Gospel, the greatest story ever told.
If you know someone who struggles to see God’s hand in their story, will you email them this post?
Photo credit: Kevin Harber