Why Read Fiction?

People say fiction is only make-believe and those who read it want to escape life.

Nonfiction is reality, they say; fiction isn’t. Why waste time?

It’s true that non-fiction describes life accurately. But fiction births—in a way we can embrace it—truth.

In story, we enter the world of the tale through words. We need to use our imagination to comprehend. We must see, hear, taste, touch, and smell what the characters sense. And when we do, the narrative comes alive.

We become the character. We conquer life. We grow.

We gain courage as we encounter difficulties, even impossibilities, with the characters. We see the world in a new way and understand things about life we hadn’t before we picked up the book. We learn we are loveable just as we are although we aren’t perfect. We perceive we are not alone. We comprehend our experience is universal.

And, in the end, we will be okay.

Good storytellers listen to the stories within them and tell its truth. This fiction heals the reader (and the writer). Story is a balm for our wounded lives, a safe place we can go. Again, not to escape the world but to make sense of it.

When a child in a tumultuous home is given the gift of reading and books, he carries a torch to see a bigger and better world. He believes he can conquer the dragons in his own world in his own way.

He wins hope.

When a woman feels isolated in her problems, a story becomes a place she can see she isn’t. Her mind, spurred on creatively by reading, finds solutions she hadn’t thought of before the story.

She gains hope.

Maybe she even sees God.

Who’s First At Your House?

A young couple in the pew in front of me caught my attention. The mother held a curly-haired toddler on her hip. She danced with him to the worship music. His legs bounced like he was riding a bucking horse.

I wondered if he was the couple’s firstborn, one they’d waited a long time for, because she seemed entranced with him.

The father looked at the two of them often, but the mother didn’t acknowledge him. I’m sure the dad was proud his wife was a good mother, but I felt sad for him. He couldn’t compete because the mom saw only her son. She smiled and tickled and teased him between songs.

I wondered what her husband thought: I’m so glad she’s a good mother. Or I remember when she delighted in me.

She held the toddler on the same side as her husband so the little fellow was between his parents. After about fifteen or so minutes, she passed him off to her husband, but their son wanted his mother after only a few minutes. She rewarded him with a dazzling smile.

What if she’d put the child on the other hip so she’d be next to her husband? What if she’d made eye contact or whispered to her husband or leaned into his side? What if when he looked for that connection, he found her smile at him or her hand brushed his face?  

Did she prefer being a mother over a wife? Her actions seemed to say that. Babies and young children naturally charm us so it’s true we don’t need to be told to adore our children. Their chubby cheeks and soft skin compel us. And those smiles that light up their face …

But the Bible tells wives to respect their husbands. Admire, esteem, defer to.

God reminds us of this, maybe because once we have children, we can forget. Likely because we can get so busy. But if love is proved by action, loving our husbands means showing him he is our first love. To demonstrate we value him in ways he understands, such as when we consider, prefer, include him.

There are everyday opportunities to show respect if we look.

But when we fail, we need our husbands to let us know. In the same way, when he forgets to show the love we need, we should remind him. Nicely. It’s our responsibility to the marriage to admit what we need from each other. Again, nicely.

Spouses are vulnerable to a co-worker’s attention when there is a lack of respect or love at home. We’re too busy. We’re exhausted. We take care of the children, the home. We’re in charge of the meals, shopping, the bills. Especially when both parents work outside the home.

It’s not just another item on your to-do list to nurture our marriage. It’s non-negotiable, something we just need to do. Because it matters.

Who’s first at your house?

“Do You (Still) Love Him?”

 Love and marriage go together in our culture like salt and pepper or shampoo and conditioner. So what happens when the love disappears? Often that means the couple lets the marriage go. But does that make good sense?

If you ran out of conditioner, would you refuse to shampoo your hair? If you ran out of salt, wouldn’t you still add pepper to make your soup taste better?

rosemary garlic pork chops or burgers?

It might take ten years for the loving feeling to change. Or two. Suddenly (or gradually) the wife sees only his shortcomings. Or he finds himself focusing on how she’s changed in ways he didn’t imagine. Oh, no, she not only is beginning to look like her mother but now she acts like her, too.

She realizes they don’t have much in common other than their house and children. For entertainment, he likes to watch or play sports, and she reads or goes to the movies. Even his preference for plain meat and potatoes opposes her desire to cook gourmet meals. Opposites.

me or us?

Without the softening of love, one spouse simply irritates the other.

“Love covers a multitude of sins” is true in marriage. Love filters our spouses’ many imperfections.

Can a marriage survive if the love is gone? Can a couple get the love back so they can be happy in their marriage and as individuals?

fighting and starving equals love?

In the play Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye asks his wife of many years, “Golde, do you love me?” Golde sings back, “Do I what?” She refuses to answer him, replying he’s stressed out with all the turmoil in their family and town.

Tevye asks her again. Golde reminds him she’s washed his clothes, cooked his meals, helped in the family business, and given him children for all the years they’ve been together. She doesn’t think it’s necessary to talk about something like love in that light.

He asks again. She replies, “I’m your wife.” Then she thinks aloud about how they lived, fought, starved, and made love together, ending with “if that’s not love, what is?”

feel or act?

Although Fiddler on the Roof was set in the early 1900s and our ideas about love and marriage have changed, their values are still relevant today.

Tevye talks about love as a feeling; Golde refers to love as action. They know marriage is a mixture of good feelings and the right actions.

Because love is both.

Sometimes we act loving even when we don’t feel like it only because we chose the other person. So we do the right thing regardless of what we really want to do.

surf’s up!

Feelings are like the tide. High tide and low tide, but as long as the moon (our action) is in the sky, low tide gives way to high again. So we can ride the emotions when they are strong, and hasten them back when they are low.

Because even though they are just feelings, like Tevye and Golde tell us “it doesn’t change a thing, but after twenty-five years, it’s nice to know.”