Life is not a list of propositions, it is a series of dramatic scenes. As Eugene Peterson said, “We live in narrative, we live in story. Existence has a story shape to it. We have a beginning and an end, we have a plot, we have characters.” Story is the language of the heart. Our souls speak not in the naked facts of mathematics or the abstract propositions of systematic theology; they speak the images and emotions of story. Contrast your enthusiasm for studying a textbook with the offer to go to a movie, read a novel, or listen to the stories of someone else’s life. Elie Wiesel suggests that “God created man because he loves stories.” So if we’re going to find the answer to the riddle of the earth—and of our own existence—we’ll find it in story.
For hundreds of years, our culture has been losing its story. The Enlightenment dismissed the idea that there is an Author but tried to hang on to the idea that we could still have a Larger Story, life could still make sense, and everything was headed in a good direction. Western culture rejected the mystery and transcendence of the Middle Ages and placed its confidence in pragmatism and progress, the pillars of the Modern Era, the Age of Reason. But once we had rid ourselves of the Author, it didn’t take long to lose the Larger Story. In the Postmodern Era, all we have left are our small stories. The central belief of our times is that there is no story, nothing hangs together, all we have are bits and pieces, the random days of our lives. Tragedy still brings us to tears and heroism still lifts our hearts, but there is no context for any of it. Life is just a sequence of images and emotions without rhyme or reason.
So, what are we left to do? Create our own story line to bring some meaning to our experiences. Our heart is made to live in a Larger Story; having lost that we do the best we can by developing our own smaller dramas.