I remember a seminary professor once saying that pastors enter the pulpit with the Scriptures in one hand and a newspaper in the other. There’s wisdom in those words. Pastors are called to declare God’s unchanging promises to people whose lives are ever-changing.
But if I had a third hand, I would place in it a good fairy tale.
I would tell of a princess who ate a poisoned apple and was rescued from the sleep of death by the loving kiss of a prince. I would tell of a knight who rescued his kingdom by defeating a maleficent dragon. I would tell the ancient story of a humble maiden exalted to royalty from the cinders. I would tell stories teeming with talking animals, dwarves, hobbits, elves, men, and the boy who lived to conquer a dark wizard.
In a world where the only stories we hear lately are those about pandemic, quarantine, and death tolls, we need to hear stories about friendship, bravery, courage, hope, sacrificial love, truth, beauty, and goodness. Stories from imaginary worlds, like C.S. Lewis’s Narnia and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, fill us with hope and comfort from beyond this world. If the heavens declare the glory of God, the imagination and beauty of a good story also reveals his handiwork.
So it should come as no surprise that when we read a good story, like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, or The Lord of the Rings, we are transported there and back again. These stories point us to the greatest of all stories, the true story of Jesus crucified and risen for you.
When C. S. Lewis tells us of Lucy and Susan mourning the death of Aslan, we rejoice with them in Aslan’s deeper magic that defeats the White Witch. For Christ, the true Lion of the Tribe of Judah, has conquered death, not on a stone table, but on the cross. And in him, death will work backward.
When we read of Tolkien’s Frodo and Samwise lamenting the end of the world, we join them in their mirth and joy at the unexpected eucatastrophe of rescue by the eagles on the cracks of Mt. Doom. For Christ has rescued us in the most unexpected, yet joyful way of all. The ancient darkness is forever banished in Jesus’ death on Mt. Calvary.
In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when Lewis tells us of Reepicheep the mouse, our weary heads and hearts are strengthened for the pilgrimage ahead. With the promise and hope of safe harbor on the horizon, we rest in our eternal homeland, prepared for us by the Lamb before the foundations of the world. “While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, or shot over the edge of the world in some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise.”
Like the characters in so many stories, we find ourselves longing for the mended wood, to reach the undying lands, to set sail into the utter east, and to finally have the happily-ever-after ending we so desperately long to experience. We yearn to hear Aslan’s famous words at the end of The Last Battle. “The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.” Perhaps, in the present time, we join Frodo and Gandalf in their lament. “’I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.’”
That is why, I believe, there is great value in reading fairy tales in a pandemic. There is freedom and joy to be found when we turn off the news, stop scrolling Facebook, and read. Above all, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest Christ’s holy Word. And while you’re at it, take some time to read a good fairytale too. You won’t be disappointed.
After all, good stories are not contradictory to the Christian faith but complementary to it. Good stories point us to the rescue, redemption, and restoration that is ours in Christ Jesus our Lord, the pioneer of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross. Good stories are not an escape from the world of suffering and sorrow we experience around us, but a glimpse of God’s grace and mercy that have come into our world in Jesus. Good stories fix our hearts, as the old prayer goes, where true joys are found, in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Good stories have a way of taking St. Paul’s fruit of the Spirit and planting glimpses of Christ’s love, peace, and joy into our imaginations, hearts, and minds.
Within the pages of a good story, you’ll often find a comforting glimpse of the one true story that ends in an eternal happily ever after. This is the story of Jesus, our greater Jonah leaping out of the belly of the earth to save you; the story of Good Friday death and Easter Sunday resurrection; the story of all sickness, sorrow, sin, and the ancient serpent defeated for you in Jesus.
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).