When the Story is Fiction

photo by quinn.anya.flickr.creative commons I love stories.

When I talk with a new friend, or acquaintance, I will often ask: "tell me your story." I am fascinated by people, their lives, their choices, their passions.

The other day, I was getting a ride to work because my car was getting some work done. On the way, I chatted with the mechanic, discovering that he was a part of a bowling league and had been for years. Bowling consumes his life, only taking a short break in the month of August.

Who would have known?

I love stories of how people meet, as well, whether they involve couples or friends.

Maybe it's my background as a reader, and a writer of fiction, but I see story everywhere. I think that this is also part of how God speaks to me, using something that I readily connect with to connect with me.

There are some wonderful things about engagement with story, but sometimes, I think my preoccupation with storytelling affects the way I see my own. Sometimes, the story I see unfolding in my future is nothing but a fiction. I have it clear in my mind, uncloudy and beautiful, except for one thing: it's not true.

I focus on my fictional life more often than I would care to admit. I plan out what will be, what I'll be, where and how. Having spoken to many different people, in varying circumstances, I'm learning that it isn't just single people who do this. It's tempting to dwell in precious possibility, rather than present reality.

When I was taking fiction classes, reading novels and making comments and sitting in circles talking about point of view and characterization, I learned something very crucial about fiction: it is incomplete. All fiction has been (and should be) edited relentlessly, leaving only what is needed to tell the best story possible. In this way, fiction is very different from life.

photo by KimNowacki.flickr.creative commons

My real life is much more like a rough draft of a story, with all of the extraneous dialogue and that long, fussy description of the way the sun came in through the kitchen window. It does not come together neatly, tight and clear, every word tested until it sings.

2 Corinthians 4:7 says:

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;

I've spoken before about the church as family, and made comments about how I think single people fit within that framework. Here is another way:

I, too, have a story to tell.

It's doesn't look like anyone else's story (though goodness knows I've tried to make it so). It's mottled and winding and not linear. You can see the places where I tried to wrench the pen out of God's hands. Somehow, when combined with all of the other stories in the Church, it helps tell the complete Story.

What a thought.

I think that if I was polished like a piece of excellent fiction, or a pretentious piece of pottery, that it would be easy to praise me. I would listen for people oohing and ahhing over my story, thankyouverymuch.

It doesn't seem that God decided to do things my way, though. Instead, He placed me inside of a story, made beautiful even in its imperfections, ramblings and over-use of metaphor, by Him.

When I listen, really listen, to the stories around me, it is easy to hear the rough drafts in the words, the circumstances and the relationships. But for some reason, that makes it much easier for me to see God, if only through what I perceive as plot holes.


This post is part of a series related to singleness and the church which I am calling Single-Minded Mondays. Because I find myself talking about things which I think are relevant to the whole church, it is my hope that many people will find encouragement and food for thought here, single or otherwise. If you know of someone who might enjoy the conversation, I’d be honored if you would invite them along. You can read the rest of the entries in this series here.