"By words the mind is winged."
Why do we love books so much? Why do we spend hundreds of dollars buying them and thousands of hours reading them? Why do we fill our bookshelves? Why do we browse libraries and bookstores, why do we create book blogs and write reviews and form communities centered around our favorite genres?
It's because of story.
And it's because story reaches in and speaks right to the heart.
Stories are an escape. They are journeys and adventures. They are safe places to think and feel and question, places where we dare to risk it all in a hypothetical situation, to see how it plays out. They prepare us for the real places that ask us to risk, to fight, to love. Once we've practiced in fiction, we're a bit more ready to choose the heroic path in life.
Dry information is not remembered. Yet information attached to strong emotion stays with us for years. You may not even remember the plot of a book you read five years ago--not the names of the characters or the twist at the end--but somewhere in your mind, the feelings and concepts are there.
It's in stories that we often learn what life is, and what it should be. Even when a novel makes no attempt to teach an overt message, we are learning. We are vicariously experiencing another world and another life through the characters.
That's why stories mean so much to me. In them I've lived hundreds of lives. I've been a victorious hero. I've succumbed to a fatal flaw. I've offered mercy and received mercy. I have lived, I have died. I have seen the world through many eyes, felt pain and joy so like my own in many hearts.
I've found more than just companionship in stories. I've also seen glimpses of God, in the spaces between the lines where imagination intersects with the holy. It astounds me that He would use stories humbly imprinted on paper to speak to us. Of course, the Bible is where I find Him the most--as it should be. But I cannot discount the ways fiction has shed a different light on things I'd grown too familiar to see in Scripture.
Ted Dekker's Black drowned me in God's love.
Bryan Davis's Eye of the Oracle let me dance with Elohim.
Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Starflower pierced through my judgmental nature and showed me grace.
C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe put me in awe of my Savior's sacrifice.
Andrew Klavan's If We Survive reminded me of the beauty and fragility of life.
J.R.R. Tolkien's The Return of the King showed me courage in the face of impossible odds.
Jeffrey Overstreet's The Ale Boy's Feast helped me lean on God's provision.
Even a children's book like Max Lucado's With You All the Way helped me listen for my Father's song when I cannot see Him.
I could go on and on. Secular books, too, have helped to instill bravery and friendship in me. The point is, I don't know where I would be without stories.
Some may criticize fiction as being unnecessary. An escape for those too cowardly to deal with their problems head-on. On the contrary, fiction has helped me face my problems. Between the covers of books, I have discovered courage to combat fear, love to fuel my steps, and the reassurance that the happiest ending of all is yet to come.