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.

Hometown Boy

We all have needs. Sick kids, threatened paychecks, troubled marriages, broken hot water tanks.

My sister loaned me her Jesus Christ Superstar DVD. I’d forgotten how powerful the visualization of the gospel story can be. When I read the New Testament accounts, I know all the details. I lack fresh eyes to see.

An early scene in the movie depicts many people who needed Jesus clamoring around Him. These people understood He was the Savior. They wanted, needed, demanded His attention. Jesus wasn’t someone they’d known about their whole lives. Except in His hometown.

The crowds around Jesus didn’t have the disadvantage of growing up in Sunday School with the Bible stories becoming as commonplace as family escapades or school history lessons. (There are advantages, this I know.) They didn’t have the internet either where His beatitude speech might go viral, spinning Him into celebrity status.

In the movie, Jesus walked among the people because He loved them. To save them. His power provided what they needed, not as a Santa Claus figure or Sugar Daddy, for their real needs – not toys and candy. Real physical problems like blindness, deafness, lameness, and diseases like leprosy, bleeding that wouldn’t stop crushed them.

But, at least for a time, they knew He could change their lives.

What about today? He’s still among us, still waiting for us to ask. But some of us have become immune to the power of Jesus. Resistant to His love. Impervious to His willingness to help us with our needs.

We’ve always known about Him, but we don’t see Jesus as He is because we fail to look. We are blind. We are deaf. And we are bleeding to death.

If we can only imagine we just heard about Jesus like the people in Jesus Christ Superstar or in real time Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. With new sight, we could see Him, truly man and truly God, in our midst.

Here and now, Jesus waits for us to ask even when it’s just to ask for more faith to believe. That’s fine (and Biblical), too.

Forget that – in a sense – we’ve grown up with Jesus.

Reach out. Touch His robe.