There is truth so small it can fit on a bumper sticker, but for my money give me a big story.
We thought Titanic was long at three hours until the Lord of the Rings trilogy weighed in at more than nine hours--but I want more. I need a story big as all creation, one that opens me up to eternity.
Of course, there is a story like that. When the word of God was first breathed out, the Spirit told us a story. Why, then, do we insist on treating the story like a book of law? We have missed the fact that nearly all of the Scripture comes to us as either narrative or poetry. It’s God’s truth, and he chose to reveal the truth by telling stories and singing songs. Why aren’t God’s people the singers and storytellers of our age?
Each generation is born with eternity in their hearts, imaginations capable of capturing the wind, voices eager to sing along with the Creator. But recent generations have been taught neither to sing nor to listen, but to distill God’s creative energy into systematic theology. Yet in my Bible the letters of Paul number 84 pages while the Psalms of Israel number 140 pages and 150 melodies--and that’s just the Psalms!
Consider the Old Testament: the story of God begins when he bends down and shapes humanity from the clay of the earth and kisses them with the breath of life. He made us in his image and walked with us day by day. The story continues through Cain, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It’s one story, and it’s a story of divine unrelenting love. Nor does it stop in Genesis: the Old Testament narrative continues all the way to Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. One story, many characters, one Lover. Then the poets take over and lay down the soundtrack for the story, followed by the prophets, who--like the bonus features on a DVD--provide the Director’s commentary on all that has gone before. Who could treat the Old Testament as a legal textbook? To do so would be embrace religion while rejecting the Author of the story.
What we call the New Testament provides the most creative shock in history--the Author writes Himself into the story and reveals the full extent of his love. Yet he is not finished: just when we marvel at the climax of the tale, the Author turns his attention to we who are listening to the story and invites us to help write the coming chapters. And indeed, they are still being written. Finally, when it seems like nothing more can be said, the Spirit breaks into an apocalyptic stream of consciousness that seems never-ending. In fact it actually is never-ending: we discover we have only read the prologue. The Author invites us to feast at his house and help with the volumes to come.
Why didn’t someone teach me the Bible as God’s story? I like stories.
Some will mistakenly think I care nothing for truth. My real point is that God has chosen to share his truth in ways that go beyond precept and principle. God has chosen to share his heart, and if we capture his heart we will live in his truth. The truest things I know first took root in my heart and later changed my thinking. The transformations of my lifetime did not come from having a “Christian worldview,” but from the breath of God breathed into my imagination. The motion of his Spirit caused me to believe I could become what he planned for me all along.
I don’t want to read the Bible just so I can go to the head of the class. I want to go home with the Writer, the Singer, the Sculptor, and learn to create the way he creates. It turns out his studio is pretty big. He wouldn’t have told me so unless it were true.