With three talkative children at the table, the ship of dinner-time conversation is rarely steered by the adults in our house. Which is surprising given that the youngest is working with a somewhat limited vocabulary. To make up for this handicap, he frequently resorts to loudly repeating a single word with varying intonations. His vocabularly may be small, but he certainly knows what talkative is supposed to sound like.
Recently, I yanked my mind from some daydream or other and recognized that the children were discussing Harry Potter. This, too, is strange, given that not one has finished reading a single book of the series, nor have they seen the films. I recognize, with a bit of sadness, that Harry Potter has joined the company of imaginative figures, untethered from any particular medium, which populate a child’s imagination. Harry Potter, Winnie the Pooh, a Jedi Knight … they’re all hanging out together in my five-year-old’s dreams.
As if trying to get a firmer grasp on all that she doesn’t yet know, the firstborn says, “But Harry Potter isn’t …”, and I gasp. I am suddenly sure that she’s about to say “true.” She doesn’t. Finishing her sentence over my raised eyebrows, she says, “Harry Potter isn’t real, is it Daddy?” He says easily, “No honey, it isn’t real.” And I sigh, grateful I don’t have to intervene.
But if she had said true? That would have been a very different story.
It isn’t simply that I love Harry Potter. I do. Much as I loved Narnia when I was my daughter’s age. But it isn’t love (or delusion, for that matter) that would have caused me such pain to hear my child say, “That story isn’t true.”
Despite what you may now be thinking, I don’t believe there are broom-flying wizards right around the corner. That’s our reality. No broom-flying wizards. I might wish it otherwise, but I accept this.
But true? Not true? To me, at least, those words suggest something very different from what we usually mean when we say “true-life.” No, Harry Potter’s world is not “true-life.” But true? Yes!
Ours is a fallen, not-quite-what-it-was-meant-to-be world, and our reality isn’t always true. At times, it lies. It says this world tends towards chaos, you are on your own, watch out for number one, pursuing goodness is a waste of time.
Stories – at least the excellent ones – give us a glimpse of the world as it was always meant to be. Through the lens of a story, we can see the world as it will be again one day.
Reality? Too often it is a cracked lookingglass. Stories? No matter how fantastical, this is often where we spy the truth.
When Jesus came walking in bare feet to rescue us, he was asked many questions. More often than not, he answered them with stories.
He told us himself that his name was Truth, and he told us stories.