The Characters We Welcome Into Our Lives
I closed my last book of 2021 just in time for the New Year. The Reading List, 1 weaved its story around the lives of strangers connected through a mysterious list of books. The book was a touching display of the beauty of story and the effect fictional characters have in our own real-life worlds. Author, Sara Nisha Adams, displayed this by making the books come alive for her characters. They didn’t just read To Kill a Mockingbird, they heard Atticus Finch prodding them to speak boldly and rightly. They didn’t merely understand the story of Rebecca, they saw the grumpy housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers popping up to interact with their thoughts.
As I was transported through these characters’ interactions, I couldn’t help but find myself saying, “Yes! That’s what it’s like to read!” The good books we take in are not merely stagnant stories, but they intertwine with our lives. We turn that first page, and we welcome the characters into our own world. My own favorite books tell this tale.
I catch a glimpse of my reflection and I see “plain Jane Eyre” next to me. She tells me inner strength and virtue always matter more than outside appearance. She beckons me to live with passion and with the deepest faith in the Lord’s goodness—no matter the sacrifice.
I dish out meals for my three kids, break up fights, and bandage ouchies, and I see Marmee from Little Women reminding me to gently point these little pilgrims toward the Celestial City. She urges me to foster creativity, wonder, and generosity in their little worlds.
Mention of horse riders and bandits brings me chuckling over my dear friend Swede, the spunky western poet I learned to love in Peace Like a River. The thoughtful and gentle Sam Beaver from Trumpet of the Swan walks silently next to my seven-year-old as they both wonder what they’ll do in their lives. I believe they would have been good friends.
I watch my daughter cuddle our ducks and expect Fern to take her by the hand out to the barn to see Wilbur and talk about growing up. And every time I pass through a lane enveloped by trees, I want to grab Anne Shirley’s hand and stretch my scope for imagination.
Simple lines of text on a page invited these characters to come into my life to stay.
Perhaps you feel the same as me.
Yet, even if you don’t like reading fiction, all of us have the chance to be affected by story. Our God is the greatest storyteller after all, and he has given us a multitude in his Word. Though certainly not fiction, we have been given sixty-six books of stories and characters to welcome into our lives.
In the same way I carry the characters from the pages of my books, I carry the saints of God throughout history. And God kindly draws them into my view exactly when I need them.
In the midst of deep pain and uncertainty I’ve found friendship with Job as we wrestle together at the Lord’s sovereignty over creation. When I’ve found a fresh spring of water in the midst of the wilderness, I’ve held Hagar’s hand and proclaimed, “Yes, you are the God who sees.” I’ve wept with David in bitter confession and rejoiced with him in song. I’ve been convicted by Paul’s words and sat eagerly under the lectures of the author of Hebrews.
Though I’ve read the passages again and again, God continues to lead me to his Word, pull out people, phrases, and plot lines and use it to change me. The stories are not just information, but they become a part of my own world—my own hurt and grief, my own celebrations, my own hope—and often just when I need them.
These real people throughout history go with me— the cloud of witnesses from the past–prodding and encouraging me. Yet, the credit doesn’t go to the people themselves. For we know in a story the power is not in the words of a Marmee March who never existed but in the author who wrote those words in her mouth. So it is with each of these men and women. While the characters of Scripture are real, all the words we read about them and from them are inspired by the Lord (2 Tim. 3:16).
These men and women of Scripture turn our gaze up to the author who penned their story. They lift our eyes up to the Lord, who inspired them with the words to write, and who sovereignly worked in each of their lives. His Spirit wields the Word and encourages us with Job, challenges us with John’s letters, and comforts us with Asaph’s Psalm, precisely when we need it.
When we open the Bible, we open the greatest story ever written. And those words don’t leave us, for the Spirit is actively using them in our lives at the appointed time.
I hope this year you take time to marvel in the world of stories the Lord has created. Good works of fiction help us do that, and God can use the creative tales of others to shape and encourage us.
But even more important than novels, I pray that God would continue to surround you with his story. May he draw out the characters and lines of Scripture to encourage, rebuke, and comfort you when you need it. I pray you would marvel at the author who graciously provided a way to know who he is and the hope of his glorious gospel—all through the stories of his people.
- I really enjoyed this book, but want to share that there were a handful of curse words.
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