The Reality of Easter

Before time was, God is.

God created time, and in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

The Lord our God, He is One. But He is Three in One–God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—distinct in nature yet one in Being.

And God said, “Let us create man in Our Image.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Out of the dust God created man, and out of the man God created woman. And He set them in the garden called Eden, to cultivate and protect it.

The Lord God commanded man, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

[Death: The separation of one thing from another. Examples: the separation of the soul from the body, the separation of man from God]

After the beginning there was an angel called Lucifer. Desiring himself to be God, to know good and evil, and to ascend past his innocence, he succumbed to the sin of pride and was cast from heaven, for no darkness can exist in the presence of the Light.

Then Lucifer the deceiver clothed himself in the skin of the serpent, the most cunning of God’s created beings, and said to the woman: “Did God say you could not eat of that tree? You will not die! No, you shall become like God.”

Then the woman, desiring herself to be God, to know good from evil, and to ascend past her innocence, succumbed to the sin of pride and partook of the forbidden fruit. Offering the fruit to her husband, he ate also.

Immediately the man and woman, who had walked with God in the garden, were cast out from His presence, for no darkness can exist in the presence of the Light.

And from that moment on, all mankind was cursed with that thing that was most desired: to ascend past the state of innocence, to be born with the knowledge of evil, and to be separated from God.

For no darkness can exist in the presence of the Light.

But God, Who cannot exist in the presence of darkness, is both Light and Love. And to Lucifer the deceiver, He made a promise.

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise Him on the heel.”

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Through the pride of men, darkness entered the earth. Through the love of God, the promise of a Savior immediately followed the darkness.

Thousands of years passed, and through them all the forces of the deceiver sought to end the promised line of the woman.

Thousands of years passed, and the line was preserved.

Adam

Seth

Noah

Abraham

Isaac

Jacob

David

Solomon

Mary

And in the fullness of time, a virgin conceived and bore a Son. And His name was called

Wonderful Counselor.

The Mighty God.

The Everlasting Father.

The Prince of Peace.

Yeshua Hamashiach

Jesus Christ

The Savior

And Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life—no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”

Each year, the Hebrews observed Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement. A day of blood, a day of sacrifice, a day of forgiveness. For without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins.

Only the blood of an innocent sacrifice could cover the sins of the people in the eyes of God.

Only through the blood of an innocent could forgiveness be given.

But the blood of innocent animals had to be shed many times, for Yom Kippur came about every year. And the blood of innocent animals could only cover the peoples’ sins. The Law of sacrifice was insufficient to completely eradicate the darkness, once and for all.

And the darkness cannot exist in the presence of the Light.

The darkness of men cannot produce Light, nor can the Light be satisfied with the darkness of men.

Only the Light can be satisfied with itself.

And Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life—no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”

And so the Light came to earth and dwelt among men, taking upon Himself the same form, yet living without sin. And the Light came to earth for one purpose: to die.

For without the blood of an innocent sacrifice, there is no forgiveness of sins.

Only the Light can be satisfied with itself.

And so in the fullness of time, the Light offered Himself up to be crucified by the very people He came to save. As He was lifted up upon the tree, He took the curse of mankind’s darkness upon Himself and paid for the sins of those whom He had created.

With the shedding of innocent blood, there is forgiveness of sins.

And it pleased the Light to crush Him, for the only sacrifice that could satisfy the Light is the sacrifice of Himself.

And the Light turned His back on the Son, for He had taken the darkness of the world upon Himself.

And the darkness cannot exist in the presence of the Light.

And with a loud voice, Jesus cried “It is finished!”

And He died.

For three days the world descended into darkness as the Son of God laid in His tomb.

And Lucifer rejoiced, for finally the promised line had been destroyed.

The Savior lay in His grave—the Light was gone.

But on the third day…

The earth trembled, the morning sun rose blazing across the sky, the stone to the tomb rolled away from the entrance.

And the tomb was empty.

For the darkness cannot exist in the presence of the Light.

And the Light cannot be vanquished by the darkness of death.

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life—no one comes to the Father but by Me.”

And so He died to take our curse upon Himself…

And He rose from the dead to eradicate the curse, once and for all.

And so the promise that followed the darkness was fulfilled. The Way was made for men to become alive.

[Death: the separation of one thing from another. Examples: the separation of the soul from the body, the separation of man from God]

[Life: the opposite of death, the union of one thing with another. Example: the union of the soul and the body, the union of man and God]

For the darkness cannot exist in the presence of the Light, but the Light can exist in the presence of Himself.

And the Light stands ready to remove the darkness from men, replacing it with the Light that is Himself, so that men can be made alive and be united with God forever.

For the blood has been shed and forgiveness has been offered.

The hour of salvation is now, set into motion at the beginning of time.

For if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,

and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

New American Standard Bible. (1995). La Habra: The Lockman Foundation.

Smelling the Color 3

My sister is red.

My credit card PIN is green and brown.

My birthday is red and yellow—or blue—or white. It depends.

My name is yellow. I live in a world of color.

Consider for a moment the planet you live in. A little rock floating in the middle of space filled with people who have the strangest brains. Look at the person next to you—do you know what he’s thinking? Turn the other way—does your neighbor see the world the same way you do? When both of you look at the grass, do you see the same color—or is his green your blue?

Now look down at the words written on a sheet of paper. What do you see? Yes, the ink is black and yes, the paper is white. But is that it?

My name is yellow and I see things differently.

I have grapheme-color synaesthesia: a rare psychological condition in which subjects associate letters of the alphabet, numbers, and even whole words with color. Some would call this a “disorder,” but it’s never caused me any trouble so I’ll just call it a condition.

I’ve had this condition my entire life. I remember when my brother was silvery-periwinkle-years old, I thought he was so superior because his age was shiny whereas mine was just a dull red-brown. Right now I am green-years old, which is a very fine age to be considering it is one of my favorite colors. Last year my college roommate was red-years old, but now she is green like I am.

My roommate’s name is also yellow, but sometimes red. She sees things differently, too.

She has chromesthesia: a form of synaesthesia in which subjects associate colors with certain sounds or pitches. To her, “Beethoven’s 5th” is flashy and orange, while “Eatnamen Vuelie” bursts with golds and reds. She also has another form of synaesthesia in which she associates certain smells with colors.

Here’s where things get interesting.

Just like all of the great thinkers of the world, we made a discovery while under the effects of extreme sleep-deprivation. By combining our two conditions, together we could determine the smell of numbers and their colors—our goal being to determine the smell of the color 9, a feat declared impossible in an old Chris Rice song.

He was almost right.

We were not able to smell the color 9, but we did discover a different one.

We were eating dinner when my roommate observed that the cafeteria smelled like the color yellow. Picking up on this observation, I did my part and clarified that yellow was associated with the number 3. By using the basic laws of mathematics—which was impressive considering our sleepless state—we came to a groundbreaking conclusion.

We discovered the smell of the color 3.

Synaesthesia was named after a Greek word meaning “together.” It generally refers to the combined use of more than one sense in repeated instances. Together, a person’s senses can work to open up a world that cannot normally be seen. Together, two people can accomplish things that are declared impossible by normal standards.

Together, we can smell the color 3.

I am Iron Man

Every human being is faced with the same question. One terrifying, nerve-wracking question. A question that hides in the darkness, unknown, unseen, until one fateful day when it rushes out and tackles you to the ground, knocking the very breath out of you. Then you just lie there, gasping for oxygen, completely unprepared to answer it.

Do you know what it is? Let me provide you with some real-life context–maybe it’ll help.

You’re a child entering school. From that first day you walk through the door, hiding behind your mother’s skirt, to the day you walk off a platform in an unbearably hot cap and gown, your life is your classmates. How they walk, dress, eat, and talk are the guidelines to how you walk, dress, eat, and talk. Your grades, your clothes, your friends, your failures–that’s who you are.

But then–then you’re finally free from high school…and off to college.

From that first day you walk into your dorm, hiding behind your mother’s skirt, to the day you walk off a platform in an even more unbearably hot cap and gown, your life is your friends. How they walk, dress, eat and talk are the guidelines to how you walk, dress, eat, and talk. Your grades, your clothes, your friends, your failures, your extra-curricular activities–that’s who you are.

But then–then you’re finally free from college…and you’re on your own.

If you haven’t guessed it yet, this is the point where that question jumps out of hiding and knocks the wind out of you. Separated from your friends, your accustomed lifestyle, and your purpose in life so far–the question hits full force.

Who am I?

Obviously, not everyone gets to this question by walking the same path…some people don’t finish high school, some people never attend college, some people get married, some people get injured and permanently incapacitated, etc.

But we all come to the same question eventually. So why is this question so difficult to answer? Why don’t we know something as simple as who we are. 

I’m a nerd–I’m pretty sure we’ve already established that. So let me propose an answer to this question in the best way I know how. Ready? Let’s go…

Batarang BATMAN

I warned you it was going to be nerdy, but stick with me, I’ll explain…

Batman–aside from being one of the coolest superheroes of all time–can teach us a valuable lesson of identity. If you’ve watched Batman Begins, you’ll recognize this line immediately:

“It’s not who you are underneath…it’s what you do that defines you.”

Sure, this sounds cool when Christian Bale says it in his gravelly Batman voice right before he jumps off a building–but do you know what this is saying? Who you are, on the inside, as a person, doesn’t matter–it’s your actions that define you.

And that’s how we commonly define ourselves, whether we realize it or not. Are you a student?–Then that’s who you are. Are you a mother?–Then that’s who you are. Are you a businessman?–Then that’s who you are. 

Have you failed? Then clearly you are not a person who has made a mistake–you are a failure. It’s who you are.

You seeing the problem with this thinking, now? If our identity is based on what we do, you can never be anything more than what you’ve already done. And when those things can’t be done, anymore–who are you?

Ready for the counterpoint? Here it is:

Iron ManIRON MAN

I know, I must be some sort of heathen to be setting up the self-proclaimed “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” as a role-model, but stick with me, I’ll explain…

I draw my point specifically from Iron Man 3. I know what you’re thinking: Iron Man 3? Seriously? But work with me, here…It’s not like it’s from Iron Man 2. 

At the end of the movie Tony Stark ends up doing something that blows all of our minds: he destroys all of his Iron Man suits and removes the shrapnel (and thereby the need for the arc reactor) from his chest. When this is going on, we’re all thinking “What on EARTH is he doing? He’s destroying EVERYTHING that made him Iron Man! How are they going to keep making Avengers movies?”

But then what does he still say? Even after his suits are destroyed–even after the arc reactor is removed from his chest–even after all of that–who is he?

He’s Iron Man.

The suit is not Iron Man–Jarvis isn’t even Iron Man. Tony Stark is Iron Man.

See the difference? Batman based his identity on his actionsbut Iron Man based his actions on his identity.

So what about our identity, then? We certainly can’t find our answers in DC or Marvel comics–but we can find it in a different book.

Genesis 1:26-28 records how man was made in the image of God. In essence, we are God’s representatives on earth–made in His very likeness. This gives each man dignity–and this is what gives each man his basest identity.

And before you argue, whether you believe this or not is irrelevant. It’s objective truth–meaning it’s reality and that’s just the way it is, whether you like it or not.

But God doesn’t stop there. In case you haven’t noticed–there are 65 more books of the Bible after Genesis–you should check it out, sometime.

Each man is made in the image of God–so do you know what that means? Who you are isn’t based on what you do, or how well you’re doing it, or on how you look, or on how others judge you to be…

Who you are is based on who your Creator says you are.

So maybe you should take the time to check up on how He sees you. Because His is the only opinion that matters–and believe me, it really matters.

So that’s how that burning, terrifying, nerve-wracking question be answered.

It’s not by what you do, but by the very fact that you are.   

I am not Batman. So who am I?

I am Iron Man.

                                                                                                                       *Images courtesy of Google Images

 

 

Hellfire on Our Tongues

“See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!

And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity;

the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body,

and sets on fire the course of our life,

and is set on fire by hell”

James 3:5-6

Words are powerful things.

Words can be the hand that lifts us up out of our darkest places.

Words can be the sword that cuts us down and leaves us to die.

They can build nations, preserve lives, and inspire hope.

Or they can burn, destroy, and utterly annihilate.

Words are powerful things.

And once those words have been spoken–they can never be taken back. The damage they inflict can never be completely reversed.

So why aren’t we more careful with them?

“A perverse man spreads strife, And a slanderer separates intimate friends.”

Proverbs 16:28

Gossip, slander, accusations–these are things that come so easily to us at times. So easily we don’t even recognize we’re doing it.

Now before you keep on reading, pay very close attention to this. It is so easy to pass over words like this and think, “well, this definitely does not apply to me. I’m a nice person–I don’t hurt people. I don’t separate close friends. I go to church every Sunday and drop money in the offering plate. I obey the law and provide for my family…I-I-I-I–etc.”

But I really want you to think. Think! 

Have you accused someone of something lately based on hearsay? Have you made judgments about people solely based on something you’ve heard? Have you taken the time to get the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, before you’ve settled your mind on a matter?

Have you been the one starting the “he said–she said–chain?”

Like I said–gossip, slander, rumors, hearsay–they come so easily to us. We may not even realize we’re doing it until the word is out and spreading like wildfire.

But what’s the harm in a little gossip, right? What are a few little words going to do to someone, after all?

Well, let me provide a bit of perspective…

“Accuser” and “Slanderer” are words that are used quite often in the Bible…they refer to someone casting judgment on someone else, or spreading lies based on hearsay–you know, average stuff, right? Harmless…

What if I told you these two words come from the original Greek diábolos. Does that word sound familiar? It should–it’s where the word “devil” comes from.

In essence, those who accuse and slander brand themselves with the very name of the devil, himself.

And we know the damage his words have done.

We have not so learned Christ.

If anyone knows the power of words, it’s the Inventor of words, Himself–and the Inventor of words gives us clear guidelines of how to stop the spread of gossip and accusation when it reaches us.

In fact, those guidelines can be whittled down to one word.

Love.

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all the mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous;

Love does not brag and is not arrogant,

Does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own,

Is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,

Does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

Bears all things,

Believes all things,

Hopes all things,

Endures all things.”

1 Corinthians 13:1-7

That’s what love is. That’s what we have learned from Jesus Christ.

If you read through this again, could you replace the word “love” with your name, and still have it be true?

Do you bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things?

Do you consider other people to be more important than yourself?

Do you rejoice in the truth–or do you spread the juiciest story you can find to make yourself look better in the eyes of other people?

If you’ve taken the time to read all this, consider this as a warning: God takes the truth very seriously. Truth is the very essence of who God is. Anything opposite of it, or even a twisted version of it, is aligned with the slanderer and accuser, himself: the devil.

God is the Judge–He establishes the rules, not us–and God does not forget.

Words are powerful things.

Even one sentence can be spread like wildfire, until an entire reputation and life is burned to the ground.

The tongue is extremely small, and yet it is the deadliest weapon known to man.

We all have a tongue.

We all have a mind.

We all have a heart.

Use with caution–for the consequences are extreme.

And irreversible.

Random Fact of the Day

We now interrupt your regularly scheduled lives for the Random Fact of the Day…

Today’s Random Fact deals with the wonderful world of coffee. If you’re a coffee drinker, you may understand the struggle of going to coffee shops like Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts and having no idea what to order, mainly because you have no idea what some of those ridiculously-named drinks are.

So for the sake of coffee drinkers everywhere, here’s a crash course of what’s in those weird drinks, anyway…

Macchiato:

A macchiato is a layered drink consisting generally of flavored syrup, steamed milk, espresso shots, and caramel. When drinking a macchiato, do not stir it. The drink is meant to be experienced one layer at a time. Adding cream and sugar is not necessary. (May also be served cold)

Latte:

A latte consists of steamed milk and shots of espresso–flavored syrup may also be added. Adding cream and sugar is not necessary. (May also be served cold)

Cappuccino:

A cappuccino is literally the exact same thing as a latte, only with mostly foamed milk.

Mocha:

A mocha is basically a hot chocolate with shots of espresso added to it–flavored syrup may also be added. At Dunkin Donuts this drink is called a Dunkaccino. Adding cream and sugar is not necessary. (May also be served cold) 

Americano:

An americano is basically a standard espresso-made coffee (hot water+espresso shots), but with an additional shot of espresso–flavored syrup may be added. This is a drink where it is socially acceptable to add cream and sugar. (May also be served cold)

Frappe:

A frappe is basically standard smoothie mix combined with shots of espresso to satisfy your coffee fix–flavored syrup may be added. At Starbucks this drink is called a frappuccino. Adding cream and sugar is not necessary.

Chai Latte:

If you’re expecting chai lattes to taste like the tea–they don’t. I don’t like tea, but I like Chai lattes. This drink is basically steamed milk with chai flavoring added to it. A dirty chai is a chai latte with a shot of espresso added to it. Adding cream and sugar is not necessary. (Sometimes is served cold…but hot is better)

London Fog:

A London Fog is probably a drink you’ll only find at smaller (non-chain) coffee shops, and may even be a different product depending on the location. In my experience, however, a London Fog consists of steamed milk with a tea bag added to it. Adding cream and sugar is not necessary.

 

And there you have it! If I missed a drink that you’ve been wondering about, feel free to comment or contact me if you have my information.

I hope you feel enlightened by this Random Fact of the Day.

 

What are we holding onto, Sam?

If you’re a fan of fantasy literature, you know you cannot get through either a fantastical book or movie without…dun dun dun…the epic inspirational speech. The well-worded monologue of some heroic figure that inspires his friends to keep going, to carry on through the climax of the story even if none of them will make it out alive…and then afterwards the comedic relief will probably die some tragic death that leaves us all crying in the end. You know how it goes.

So you won’t be surprised if one of my all-time favorite monologues is from a fantasy movie. Namely, Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Tolkien’s The Two Towers. If you’ve watched the movie, you know what speech I’m talking about…

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were–and sometimes you didn’t want to hear the end, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to how it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow–even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those are the stories that stayed with you, that meant something…even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now…folks in those stories had plenty of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going…because they were holding onto something.”

I know I’m not the only one to be inspired by these immortal words of Samwise Gamgee…countless facebook statuses over the years have proven that! But then something comes after that speech…a question is asked. And it’s this question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. Something that’s driven me home to reality after the inspirational speech has ended…

“What are we holding onto, Sam?”

The penny drops…that’s the moment you have to distance yourself from the world of fantasy and think back to the reality. Because, unlike in Middle Earth, there isn’t much good in this world that we can fight for. We don’t live in the black-and-white realities of ultimate good vs. ultimate evil. These two things absolutely exist, don’t get me wrong…but they exist in the realm of the supernatural, of the unseen. We live in a visible world of greyness, where good people do bad things, and bad people don’t necessarily do what they do because they’re seeking to cover the world in darkness. We live in a world where our closest friends betray us, where the wicked prosper and the good struggle to feed themselves, where unborn children are murdered and people who are physically impaired are sometimes starved to death…

A world where love takes people away instead of bringing them closer, a world where the people whom you love the most are the ones who stab the biggest knives into your heart, a world where all your dreams and everything you’ve worked for crumble before your very eyes, and you’re left right back where you started…

That’s the world we live in.

I know this sounds pretty bleak, and I promise I’m really not this depressing all the time. But the truth is, I’m not the only one who sees the world this way. I’m surrounded by people crying out for justice [and not the political or major justice you see on the news], but the personal kind of justice–where people have been deeply wronged while the perpetrator walks unharmed, most of the time still in the good standings of the good people around him. I’m surrounded by people crying out for hope, because all they can see is a bleak, lonely world ahead of them with no possible means of escape. People who see the happy endings of their peers and begin to believe deep own in their hearts, not everybody gets the happy ending…

There are people who feel forgotten–betrayed–worthless–hopeless…

People who don’t know what they’re holding onto, anymore.

This is something I’ve been struggling with, as well.

And yet…there is something we can hold onto. Or rather, there is Someone who is holding onto us…

For the believer, our hope is in the thing we cannot see. For hope that we can see is not truly hope, only a wish that something might become better [Romans 8:24].

Our hope lies in eternity…that forever happy-ending for those who persevere through the climax of the story.

As C.S. Lewis’ character said in the play, Shadowlands, “This is only the land of shadows. Real life hasn’t begun yet.”

But that’s not all Lewis’ character said in Shadowlands…

“I suggest to you that it is because God loves us that he makes us the gift of suffering. Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world. You see, we are like blocks of stone out of which the sculptor carves the forms of men. The blows of his chisel which hurt us so much are what makes us perfect.”

You know what he’s saying? The fact that you’re suffering doesn’t mean that God has forgotten you. Rather, it means that God is paying so much attention to you that you can’t possibly remain comfortable. He’s chipping away at the flaws in your humanity–making you into a creature too perfect to belong in a mortal, sinful world. He’s turning you into the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-29).

Pretty cool, huh? [Understatement of the century, I know]

And yet…you can’t help but remember how good your life used to be. You were happy once, before you allowed yourself to get hurt so deeply. You had friends, you used to laugh…really laugh. You didn’t have to pay your bills, you hadn’t given your heart away, yet–or at least you didn’t care about that kind of thing, yet. You felt so close to God–so happy in His presence–so happy to be alive. And then it all went downhill from there, and the maddening thing is…you didn’t do anything wrong. The questions burn in your mind, what did I do to deserve this? What lesson could I possible learn from this trial of omission–from not having a life worth living, at all? Why can’t things be like the way they were?

These are the questions that have been burning in my mind, and maybe they’ve been burning in yours, too.

I recently graduated college–which is supposed to be a great thing. It’s advertised as the stepping stone into your adult life, as the time where you’ve learned all you can, so now it’s time to go out and change the world. Do amazing things. The future is yours. And yet, this is the first time in my life where I have absolutely no idea what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s the first time since I was 3-years old where I’m not operating under a schedule…where my major goal was to please God in everything I did both academically and on the sports field. My closest friends, the ones I actually opened up to and shared my deepest darkest secrets with–they’re gone. Spread out across numerous states. I feel alone. I feel like I’ve gone right back to where I was before I got a Bachelor of Arts degree. I’ve felt as if God has forgotten to write the rest of my story. I’ve told myself that the best days are behind me, and that some people just don’t get their happy endings…

And then I came across this verse… “Do not say: How is it that former times were better than these? For it is not out of wisdom that you ask about this.” [Ecclesiastes 7:10].

When I read this, something in me broke. Or rather–in the heat of the moment–it probably snapped. Why can’t I ask this question? It’s true, isn’t it? There’s nothing ahead of me–no bright future I can look forward to!

But then the heat of the moment passed, and the truth slapped me across the face.

It was not out of wisdom that I’ve been asking this.

The past is in the past–there’s no way I can go back, so why dwell in it? I need to live in the present–and place my trust back in God for the future. I need to stop hoping for the things I can see–for I’m hopelessly blind compared to the eye of God. I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, so my only chance is trusting the One who can see it, and who put it there in the first place.

For this world truly is only shadows…real life hasn’t begun, yet.

And oh, what a life it will be.

Wasting Time on Fiction

“I don’t waste time on fiction.”

I don’t know about you, but every time I hear these words spoken, my insides begin to boil. I don’t understand how anyone can live a life completely devoid of reading fiction–I mean–what do people like that think about? What do they dream about? Do they have dreams? And besides that–how can they process reality?

I do understand why some people think fiction is a waste of time. I really do. Why waste your time on something that doesn’t even exist and can’t do anything for you in “real life?” Why fill up your mind with lies like fairy godmothers coming to make your dreams come true, love at first sight, or happily ever afters, when there’s work to be done and bills to be paid? These are valid questions.

I also whole-heartedly believe people think fiction is a waste of time because they do not understand the power of fiction in reality, or how fiction can actually portray realities more true than “real life” ever can. As a child and student of both story and reality, let me show you a glimpse of what a world immersed in fiction can do…

1) Fiction inspires you to become something mere reality never could…

I remember this point being delivered with earnest by my literature teacher in college. She would always say to us, with complete earnest in her voice and a hint of sadness behind her eyes, “read stories to your children….because stories teach them lessons reality never could, and inspire them to become greater people despite what reality says.”

For a lesson taught in understanding fictional literature, I’m not sure I’ve heard many words which resonate truer in reality. You can tell a child to obey. You can demand he be kind to his siblings, study hard in school, and become a good person. You can tell him facts about life and the rules that he must follow. But there’s one thing you can’t really do: make him want to be better, to obey, and to shine despite the odds. At least, you can’t do it without a story–whether it’s the story of your life, or the stories read in a thousand good books.

For example…

Many children have childhood heroes…people they look up to, they listen to, and they emulate. For many children it could be a parent, a distant relative, that cool friend, a political leader, or a local hero.

My childhood hero was Samwise Gamgee [J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings]. From this dear hobbit I learned what it was to live a selfless life, to be a true friend, and to never give up–even when all the odds are stacked against you. I learned what true love looked like, what true sacrifice was, and how to find that small glimmer of light “that darkness cannot touch.”

Meanwhile, in real life, I was a completely awkward junior higher/high schooler who repetitively broke her glasses and didn’t know what to do with her hair. I admit, I was still discovering the wonders of personal hygiene and was not the fairy tale princess every young girl secretly wants to look like. My peers immersed themselves in the junior-high manner of discovering relationships, make-up, hair styles, sleepovers, “scary” movies [at least they were at the time], music, etc. In essence, when I was growing up I didn’t really fit in with the world in which I lived, and felt very alone.

I’ll admit–there are many times where I still feel like that.

And yet, God carried me through and inspired me to become a person after His own heart through the tool of fiction. Through dear friends like the American Girls of my childhood, the hobbits of my teenage years, then new friends of my adulthood like superheroes, time-travelers, and scrawny vikings–I’ve learned to become who I am today.

2) Fiction teaches you deeper truths than reality ever could…

All right, this is where we start to get a little more academic…

Whenever I consider the concept that fiction portrays the deepest realities, my mind immediately snaps back to my “Foundations of Literary Criticism” class, where we discussed fiction as taught by philosophers like Plato and Aristotle [oh, did you know they talk A LOT about fiction? Well, here’s some of the stuff they said…]

I’m sure everybody’s heard of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” but few people actually understand what the guy is actually talking about [it’s difficult stuff to read, I admit it]. In brief, Plato is describing a scene in which prisoners in a cave are staring at shadows on the wall cast by the light outside…in essence, they are immersing themselves in those things which are merely “shadows” or “pictures” of reality…stories cast by the realities outside the cave door.

Fewer people have probably heard of Aristotle’s “Poetics,” his written work of theory written mainly for the world of Greek tragedy and dramatic storytelling, but which can translate into other methods of storytelling, such as modern-day books, movies, and other forms of literature. One of Aristotle’s key points in “Poetics” was that fiction is meant to be an accurate imitation of reality.  In order to ensure that fiction follows the standard of being an accurate imitation, Aristotle launches into the rest of his work with a description of form, content, and other formats which I will not discuss here…but the point is, two of the greatest philosophers of the ancient world, Plato and his student, Aristotle, both understood the power fiction can have over real life.

One example that I always think of when dwelling on Aristotle’s writings is Sophocles’ play Antigone. This play, as a Greek tragedy, is an excellent example of Aristotle’s explanation of what it means to be an accurate imitation of reality. There is a struggle of two characters [neither of whom are actually fully right in their stand], which leads to pain, suffering, and eventually, the loss of everything one holds dear. Creon, the functioning antagonist and king in this story, ends up losing his nieces, his nephews, his only son, and his wife by the time the story is over. And in the end, paraphrasing the words of Sophocles, “the old man, beaten to his knees, was made wise…”

Wow. What a powerful lesson and portrayal of truth…and the kicker is, none of it happened in real life. 

You see, the beauty of fiction is that by possessing the ability to arrange what happens in that world, the author can actually portray a deeper truth than real life can portray sometimes [especially to those who are not immersed in the Way, the Truth, and the Life in the first place].

Food for thought, huh?

3) Fiction allows you to become many people, and yet remain yourself

All right, I can’t take credit for this concept…but you know who can? None other than C.S. Lewis.

He stated in his [fantastic] book, An Experiment in Criticism, 

“But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself.

Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad of eyes, but it is still I who see.

Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself;

and am never more myself than when I do.”

In the immortal words of my generation…”nuff said.”

I know this has been a long one…but thanks for sticking it out to the end! Literature and Fiction truly are too important for people to shun or snuff off because they don’t understand their value. Not only are they disrespecting the hard work of fiction writers, but they are denying themselves the chance to become more than just what they are!

So next time someone says, “I don’t waste time on fiction,” I can honestly say…

“Neither do I.”