The Power in Stories
Aside from the Love and Grace of God in Heaven, there is nothing in the world more boundless than captivating stories. We all know the power of fantasy and fiction. Our favorite books, movies, T.V. shows, plays and even role-playing video games can let us escape, encourage us and relate to our troubles when it seems like no one else does. But, sometimes it’s easy to forget that everyone, from any walk of life, carries their own stories with them at all times. Think about the last conversation you had. My guess is many of you were telling a story. We all do it, everyday, several times a day. Everyone at any age, in any condition or circumstance can appreciate a good story. Whether it's when we snag a few minutes with a friend to relay how the tiniest action altered our entire day or explaining how one's past experiences makes them the best candidate for the job to a potential employer, we all want what we share to be interesting enough to make connections and reveal our most accurate portrait. It is the building of relationships through the exchange of our personal stories that allows us to achieve mutual understanding on such a deeper level that we gain the ability to end the perpetuation of unwarranted assumptions and instead, initiate truly positive change in the society surrounding us.
In this technology driven age, we are constantly inundated with conflicting messages. On one hand we are encouraged to capitalize on our own uniqueness. Speak out, break the mold. And on the other hand, we’re told we should blend in– just do our jobs. Well, as you can see, both things are a bit tricky for me. Being born with moderately severe Cerebral Palsy has made the majority of my muscles, including the ones used for speaking clearly, extremely obstinate. My limbs are largely unwilling to do what I ask, no matter how much I coax and plead. This obviously limits my mobility and in turn, my capability to do just any old job I can find. Therein lies the reason creativity is essential to my survival. But, there again, that means I have to get people to stick around long enough after they hear my restricted voice to realize that, “oh yeah, she is actually home with all the lights on.” Even if they can read a description of my background, skill and achievements, they often need to be given something more emotionally tangible in order to bridge the gap in understanding. This is where the blessing and power of storytelling comes in handy.
I share my own stories in many various forms, each one as intensely personal as the next. Some of them are things like the digital stories on my YouTube channel (see below).
I’m also able to connect with those that watch me dance or do Pilates by explaining that while I have to rely on my power chair for my general mobility, I still enjoy being physically active and pushing the limits of my body. Not mention that when you have Cerebral Palsy, regular exercise is your best shot at getting your muscles to cooperate at all on a daily basis. Similarly, anyone who reads my written work will quickly realize I have many of the same thought processes, emotions, desires and goals as any other 30 something able-bodied woman, even though my speech may be difficult to understand. Situations like these have often led me to other rewarding opportunities as well. For example, I landed a paid freelance writing assignment at Scottsdale Community College a couple years ago because I started corresponding with the lovely lady who wrote an article about the Uniquely Abled dance class I was taking for fun at the time. Furthermore, I’ve utilized my life stories as anecdotes for inspiration in motivational speeches and as supporting evidence for policy change at advocacy events. Performing with and writing “true-to-life” scenes with Improbable Theatre Company also allows me to further illuminate my personality and experiences, beyond my disability by expanding my artistic range.
Our personal stories, however they come, are our most powerful tools. They will take us farther than any combination of facts and figures. That’s why I feel the Lord has given me an intense desire to assist others in crafting theirs.
The possible formats for a story are really endless. The most important element in any story with the power to effect change is the voice behind it. That’s the thing about our favorite stories – it’s not the plots that we remember forever; it’s the dynamic characters that touch souls and make permanent impressions in the mind.
Thoughts on Faith and Fairy Tales
If we as Christians stand on the belief that all of Jesus’ miracles are real, then would it not make sense that God gave humans imagination so we could better understand His great power?
So often when Christians come in contact with a fairy tale that contains a magical world filled with wizards, fairies and witches, they condemn it for being evil and “not of God.” My faith means everything to me, but this judgmental notion breaks my heart because it stuffs God Almighty into a proverbial box. If such stories are written or put on screen to awaken a child’s imagination, why couldn’t the Creator of the human mind place His image in an author’s mind so His message could reach a child’s heart?
C.S. Lewis became a master at weaving his faith into his many beautiful and quite magical fairy tales. As he, himself said of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, “It was not a Christian story until Aslan came bounding into it.”
“Aslan” is the high king of Narnia; a mighty lion with great power, a fierce roar and the mind of Christ. His self-sacrifice in exchange for the life of one who did deserve to die, called forth the deepest Narnian magic that would restore him to life in time to conquer evil. Through Aslan, most children will leave the wardrobe understanding the depth of the King’s love.
The land of Narnia always rests in the back of my mind each time I set out to create new worlds for my readers to venture into. These are Lewis’ words that echo in my head while the wheels of my imagination begin a new journey: “ I don’t say, ‘Let us represent Christ as Aslan,’ I say, ‘Supposing there was a world like Narnia, and supposing, like ours, it needed redemption, let us imagine what sort of Incarnation and Passion and Resurrection Christ would have there.”
If my tales of whimsy and the supernatural can lift a reader’s eyes toward Heaven the way Narnia lifted mine, then I’ve done my job well.
Next time you find yourself in a bookstore or library, pick up a fairy tale and ask yourself these questions:
Does good triumph over evil?
Are there any selfless acts of love in the story?
Do you have a greater sense of hope when the story ends?
If you answered yes to all of them, then here’s something for you consider: If a fairy tale doesn’t fit the “Christian” mold, but it contains those three elements, does the story not still point to the Creator of our imaginations?
If you are still skeptical of the value of fairy tales, I invite you to download my full research paper on The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe film. It may change your mind.
Download "A Lion's Tale" here.
View more on my YouTube Channel.