Through three months of a harsh Arkansas winter, I have positively ached for spring, for warm weather and the sweetness of dogwood-scented air. I’m ready for the rain to collect not in sheets of ice, but in puddles that I can splash in. Today, the storm is lumbering through the sky, powerful but peaceful, like a mother bear coming out of hibernation. Her thunder doesn’t roar; it just yawns.
The delicious dripping of the rain is distracting me from Tess of the D’Urbervilles, homework for my Victorian Lit class, but I can’t force myself back into that dreary world. By putting his heroine through every problem a Victorian woman could possibly face, Thomas Hardy aims to prove his truly tragic point of view. Through this lens, God either does not exist at all, or He is malevolent, playing with humanity’s sorrows like pawns in a sadistic game. (Isn’t Thomas Hardy technically the one causing Tess’s suffering? Who’s malevolent now?)
Right now, as the lightning flickers through my window, I can’t see God playing with our sorrows– only with the flash on His celestial camera. That’s what my parents used to tell me, anyway. Those white forks of electricity burning through the sky are only God, taking pictures of me from heaven. Now that I’m older, though, I think they might have gotten it backwards. Maybe it’s God inviting me to take pictures of Him.
Tonight the campus library department is hosting a Faith and Film conference to look at how the Father shows up in the movies. As a storyteller, I’m enthralled by these kinds of discussions. In Christ all things hold together; not only my salvation and the storm clouds, but the creative imagination, too. It only follows that all truly good stories will echo His story, whether their authors intend the reference or not. All creation is telling that story.
These echoes bounce off the walls of the Starbucks community room, threads in the Story’s tapestry. We leave no genre untouched. In the death of Darth Vader and the redemption of the good man Anakin Skywalker, we get an other-earthly look at God’s saving power. When Walt Disney’s Beast transforms into a man, saved by the power of true love, we look to Corinthians: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature…” Lewis and Tolkien make their obligatory appearances, affirming story, myth, fiction, Middle-Earth, and Narnia as windows into the Eternal. If God is the underlying structure of the world (and He is), good stories are cracks in the earth, allowing us to catch a glimpse of His glory.
By the time I step back out into the rain-kissed night, I’m pulsing with the joy of being not just a Christian, not just a writer, but both. More than anything, I want to carve one of those cracks in the earth myself, to let the Story shine in one more place. The cool Arkansas air, still fragrant and pure from the rain, nuzzles my skin. The stars, glinting in the velvet night, declare the glory of God. So does Star Wars. So did the thunderstorm. So will I.