As a parent, I find myself constantly looking for a good story to share with my kids. As a reader myself, I am looking for the same. A story that ignites their (and my) sense of wonder and carries their imaginations beyond the momentary pleasure of mindless entertainment. Sometimes finding a worthy tale feels just out of grasp, or worse, not even worth pursuing. The world tells us, “You’re so busy, it doesn’t matter what they read, just make sure to tick off the 20 minutes-a-day box, and go on.” I even find myself fighting the urge to scroll social media “just” one more time instead of picking up a soul-nourishing tale.
Then I hear my seven-year-old whoop a Feechie war cry from the back yard as he pretends to slay the giant from The Bark of the Bog Owl. Or I listen to my preteen daughter’s daydream about the Mended Wood in The Green Ember, hearing in her words that God-given longing for the eternal. In those moments, I know that using good stories to cultivate imagination and inspire the hearts of these eternal souls entrusted to me is a noble and worthy cause.
What is the mark of a good story? Is it memorable characters? A plot twist we didn’t see coming? A hero triumphing over a seemingly overwhelming darkness? Perhaps, it is the happy ending that ties up all the loose strings, or maybe the ending that leaves us wishing the author would tell us more. I think a good story can be, and is, all these things. And I think it’s more. The truly good (and true and beautiful) story is the one that sinks down to the depths of our souls, revealing more than perhaps we wanted to see of ourselves. The worthy, soul-shaping story doesn’t leave us glaring into the darkness in our hearts, but it also shows us a beautiful glimpse of something deeper, better.
If I desire for my kids to grow up to be heroes in their own lives and for the Kingdom, then they will need good stories. Humans, in our essence, long to be a part of some greater narrative. Story is how we think, how we remember, how we communicate. We don’t rattle off lists of data points and facts when recounting the day to our spouse. We tell stories. Our kids don’t best learn to push back the darkness by reciting a cold rule. They learn this bravery by stepping into a story. There, in the midst of epic adventures, sleeping giants, quiet acts of defiance against evil, and fire breathing dragons our kids learn. They (and we) learn bravery doesn’t mean an absence of fear, solutions are hard work and often times costly, true friends stay the course, and that evil doesn’t win while heroes stand firm.
These are the good stories that cultivate imagination and capture hearts. We share stories about giant slayers, throne wardens, Nazi resisters, island savers, and (chalk) dragon slayers. Regular, mistake-making kids, who become heroes.
Ultimately, the most important story I want my kids to grow up to love reveals Hope and Truth. Hope that all the bad things are being undone, even death. Truth that our ultimate Hero yet lives to conquer the darkness. And that here, in the darkness, they can push back against the ugly and hateful and bring a light to a world that so desperately needs some Good News. This isn’t impossible if we look for it. There’s a beautiful story still to tell.
Sounds like The Gospel, doesn’t it?
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