We love stories. Movies, radio, books, chatting with friends, eavesdropping at the hospital, sobbing to a priest, sharing with someone. Stories. We have to tell them. We want to hear them. It is what we do for each other, how love behaves. We want a witness to our lives. A pattern in the chaos. Closure. Meaning. As E. M. Forster famously described it: “The king died, and the queen died,” is just the facts. Not helpful; not healing. But, “The king died, and the queen died of grief,” is a story. Now the facts are relevant. Now they satisfy our hunger, maybe even heal our souls. How else can we cope with the mysteries of life?
Perverts prey on innocent little children.
Strangers shoot into crowds.
Children and mothers starve, clinging to each other, flies walking across hopeless eyes.
Scoffers hog the spotlight.
Followers of the gospel of love and forgiveness debate with fury and scorn.
Cartoonish people preach on TV.
Seekers soon prefer smiling agnostics to Bible waving zealots.
And yet…and yet….we want to know. We wonder.
We have questions, but think maybe there’s aren’t any answers.
Or think because we are so wounded, maybe God’s love isn’t for us.
So why didn’t He prevent the horror?
Why does God let children suffer abuse, starvation, abandonment?
Why doesn’t he take away addiction?
Heal all cancer?
How can he love us if He doesn’t help us?
We are not the first to question God.
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? King David asked over 3000 years ago. (Psalm 22:1)
We blame God for evil, like blaming light for the darkness. Yet we hope. Outgrow our childish expectations that life would be easy. Begin to see dimly, straining, that those who hurt us or left us or disappointed us had to go around God to do it. See that He is using our suffering to bring us closer to Him and a glory we can barely fathom.
By words, whether mental or spoken, our prayers take flesh. Like artists’ ideas take flesh in their work. And God Himself took flesh to express Himself–.His love and character and will–in Jesus. He told us the only story that could heal the world. Enfleshed the story. Became the story.
That is the “gospel.” In old English, “the God spell.”
A story that explains everything. And never ends.