The phone call came while we were sitting outside after Mothers’ Day lunch. ‘Nanna Vi has died,’ my sister shares. ‘They found her in bed this morning. It was a blood clot in her leg.’ My mother put her hand to her mouth and started crying. In shock, I didn’t know what to do. So I just walked to the street and sat on the kerbing.
I took the next day off work, and decided I would drive to the beach and write Nan a poem. Creativity always seems to flow when I’m extremely happy, or extremely sad. On the way I popped into the bookstore, but I didn’t want to read a non-fiction book. I didn’t want to be taught anything.
I just wanted to be lost in something. Because I hadn’t read fiction since high school, I had no idea who any of the authors were, or what I should read. Then I saw this beautifully covered book, all shiny and blue. But the name stuck out more so - ‘When Heaven Weeps’ by Ted Dekker. Book in hand, I made my way to the beach.
I had no idea how impacting this book would be for me. From the first chapter I was hooked. It seemed to suck me into this beautiful and terrible story about a woman enslaved by addiction. How powerfully heaven wept for her soul. I’d been preaching for a few years, so I loved the power of analogy and testimony, but I was amazed and perplexed that one could learn through fiction. What had I been missing out on all these years?
I immersed myself in this book every spare minute. When working in the factory, if the line stopped, I would pull the book out of my bag and indulge. During the intense parts I would pump my fist like I was watching a football game and brush away tears at the beautifully expressed moments of love Dekker portrayed.
You see, I saw myself in that story.
I saw God’s heart in that story.
Since then, almost every book I’ve read has been fiction. I can get my non-fiction through podcasts and shows, but the art of storytelling has captured my heart.
Since then, while training to be a teacher, I also studied creative writing. I reasoned that if Jesus - the best teacher of all time – employed story-telling, then I, too, should learn how to tell a good story.
My attention might wander during a sermon, but as soon as the preacher starts telling a story, I’m switched back on. When I fear going into a new environment, my mind sometimes tells me a story about what could happen. Stories govern our decisions more than we realise.
All day every, every day, we think in stories. We hear or watch bedtime stories before bed. We share the stories of workplace frustration to release the tension.
It’s through story we’ve learned about the creation of the universe, the history of mankind, and the power of the death and resurrection of Christ - the ultimate redemptive love story.
Our culture could do with some more beautiful stories. I hope you’ll think about sharing yours!
Luke Sparrow from Adelaide is a photographer, teacher and avidly studies the Bible.