I've been thinking a lot about stories lately. I love a good story whether it's on pages, on a screen, or being told aloud. I can get lost in a good story and become so attached to the characters that they become part of me. The really good characters help me learn and grow and see something about myself. I can picture them in my imagination and take them with me when I move on to a new story. Like, if Katniss and Cassia and Katsa all worked together, they would be unstoppable! And certainly any one of them could take pre-vampire Bella and maybe even vampire Bella. But the thing about my favorite characters is that they are only interesting and only come alive because of their stories.
My favorite stories are true stories. Stories told to me about my ancestors. Stories told by my family and friends. Stories from history. And especially Bible stories. The story of a little boy who picks up a handful of stones and kills a giant. The story of a million people crossing the sea on dry land. The story of a reluctant queen who saves her people. Amazing stories! And what about those left untold. Can you imagine the stories Eve could tell? Or Mrs. Noah? Or Mary, mommy of Jesus? Oh, how I can't wait to hear those stories! As I read these stories given to us by God, I try to gather what He wants me to learn. What can I learn from the man in the belly of the whale or the sleeping apostles in the garden? The lovely, wonderful thing about Bible stories is that what I learned from those stories as a child is not what I will learn if I read them today and that's not what I'll learn in ten years. God's stories are everlasting and everchanging. Leading us to Him from whatever path we may be traveling. His stories have that power. And I think He allows other stories to do that, too.
One on screen story that I experienced recently was the story of the Hatfields and McCoys. I knew a lot of the story before watching the miniseries because I had done a presentation about the feud for a college class a few years ago. First let me say that I've seen pictures of Roseanne and Johnsy and they weren't nearly as pretty as they were in the movie. And secondly, I find it interesting that the Hatfield/McCoy feud was not the last, longest or bloodiest feud in the south. But the story! Fascinating! And hard to watch. All the hate and anger and senselessness. It made me consider forgiveness and the role it played in this story and all stories...including mine. I found it most interesting to watch the women in the story. The mothers especially. They wanted all the fighting to stop, but felt that they couldn't go against their men. Perhaps so true to the time. I couldn't help but to think of my great grandmothers. They all lived very close to where this story took place and could have very well known one or both families. And they most certainly were well aware of the story as it happened. What did they think? How did they feel? Did they take sides? Did they have to stand back and quietly watch as their men did things they didn't agree with? Were they as quietly submissive or were they able to speak out? See how this story on the small screen led me to part of my own story. A part that I so wish I could know.
A written story that I just lived was Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore. It's a story about a young queen who has taken over the kingdom after her evil, evil, EVIL father was killed. She must deal with the aftermath of a destroyed kingdom. Destroyed subjects. Crushing memories. She must find her own way to repair herself and those around her and still reign as queen the best way she can. It's fantasy and couldn't be farther from my life if it tried. But by the end I was thinking about how I, we all, must take our past and embrace it. Know it. Feel it. Let it be a part of us, while at the same time moving forward. There's a scene in the book where Queen Bitterblue is helped to see herself for who she has been and who she is. She sees in her mind the girl crying in her rooms over all that's been lost and the girl searching for the truth in her library and the girl running across the roofs of her city and she, the strongest part of her, the real her, embraces each of those girls and brings them all together to be who she really is now. That's what we all have to do.
I have to, I will, remember the little girl that I was. So painfully shy and afraid. So unable, or unwilling, to raise my hand in class. And the teenage me, still so shy and naive, still afraid. And the newly married me who still wanted to call my parents every time I went to the movies to tell them when I'd be home. And the new mom me who was terrified of doing something wrong. And the yesterday me who wondered if for the last 12 years I've done it all wrong. And I even have to embrace the today me. The one who should be doing dishes instead of writing but wants so, so badly just to write every minute of every day. Would I have looked back and told my 8 year old self that it was okay that I cried on my birthday or my 17 year old self to have no regrets if I hadn't met Bitterblue? Probably not. That's the power of stories.
So here's the truth of it. We all have stories. My story is not your story and your's isn't mine. And that's the glorious part. We can only live and tell our own stories. Our stories with our supporting cast of characters and our chase scenes and our bad guys and our trials and our triumphs. Our stories that are being written, by us and by God, today and everyday. Our stories that make us who we are and who we'll be to the end. Our stories to live. Our stories to tell.