The truth is all around and deep within, we cannot escape it

Last time we finished with Ebenezer Scrooge, one of my best friends. We spoke about the fact that God speaks to us through stories, that He influences storytellers, often without their awareness. But more — we all know the real story of our lives, for God placed this understanding deep within our hearts. It manifests in the stories we tell each other, even in everyday conversation. And so, the truth is . . . all around and deep within, we cannot escape it.

We have talked some about what I mean when I say our real story, but over time we will talk about this much more.

For many years, I noticed that gospel themes are commonly represented in stories, sometimes purposely and openly, like Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol. These themes are the primacy of God’s unconditional love, the fallen nature of mankind, the resulting need of redemption and how the Holy Spirit brings this about in an individual’s life, and, one day, the eventual restoration of everything in this universe—what some increasingly call the “four chapter gospel.”

But more often than not, gospel themes are represented in stories written by others who do not seem to be believers at all, where these same truths are only expressed in symbolic form in some particulars or in the underlying plot. At some point, I began to wonder just how often this might be the case in the whole universe of stories ever written.

I was tempted to do a literary search of sorts, but I am older and this task was far beyond me. I had heard of some books on the basic plots in stories, but in reading summaries, they sounded inadequate. And then one day I came upon another reference to a book that seemed very promising. I ordered it and a few days later opened my mailbox to find a package so large, it took some effort to pry it out. It was my book, all 728 pages of it!

Christopher Booker wrote The Seven Basic Plots for over thirty years as he surveyed as much of the total literature of humanity as he could. He had been writing a book on another subject and was so taken by the similarity of the themes from stories across a great span of time and culture, he was compelled to conduct a more exhaustive survey to see if the hypothesis that there are only a few basic plots in all the stories ever written could be true.

I knew in my heart much of what he found before I read the first page. If everything God had convicted me of was true, and I knew it was, then the truth deep in our hearts would have to come out. I knew there could be a good deal of white noise, for Satan truly exists, and he would love nothing better to keep us confused, confounded, and off track. And our idolatrous hearts are so addicted to the things of this world, and want to stay so, that on many days we will unconsciously choose to stay in a fog and continue to stumble in the darkness. How much clutter there would be, I didn’t know.

As it turned out, I was astounded by just how much of the time the truth of our dilemma shines through. It is amazing more of us have not realized the truth of what our own stories have been trying to reveal to us since the dawn of mankind.

At the beginning of his journey, Christopher Booker explains:

“One of the greatest and most important mysteries is lying so close beneath our noses that we scarcely even recognize it to be a mystery at all. At any given moment, all over the world, hundreds of millions of people will be engaged in what is one of the most familiar of all forms of human activity. In one way or another they will have their attention focused on one of those strange sequences of mental images which we call a story. We spend a phenomenal amount of our lives following stories: telling them; listening to them; reading them; watching them being acted out on the television screen or in films or on a stage. They are far and away one of the most important features of our everyday existence. History books are largely made up of stories, even much of our conversation is taken up with recounting events of everyday life in form of stories. These structured sequences of imagery are in fact the most natural way we know to describe almost everything which happens in our lives.”

“What is astonishing is how incurious we are as to why we indulge ourselves in this strange form of activity. What real purpose does it serve? So much do we take our need to tell stories for granted that such questions scarcely even occur to us. We are all familiar with the teasing notion that there may be “only seven (or six, or five) basic stories in the world. It is tantalizing not least because, even though this suggestion has not infrequently been put forward in print, its authors never seem to carry it further by explaining just what those stories might be. But it is now more than 30 years since I began to realize that there might seriously be some truth in this idea.”1

And this newsletter can only be so long, so this is an excellent place to stop. Next time we will begin to talk about what Christopher Booker discovered.


1 Booker, Christopher, The Seven Basic Plots (London: Bloomsbury Continuum, 2004), 2, 3.

Welcome, I'm Sam!

A fellow traveler on this journey we call life and this path we call the Christian faith, wanting to speak to anyone who will listen about the incredible things that God (only because of His incredible grace) chose to reveal to me. Stories have always been a mirror in which we can see ourselves, if we only look more closely. We are all like the children of Israel in the wilderness, wanting and needing to establish ourselves in the promised land. Stories can help us to get there, and to flourish there.

I can't wait to get to know you!


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