Friday, February 26, 2010

Story and truth

Fiction. I'm a fan.  Always have been.  When I was a little girl--and by that I mean back when we lived in Michigan and I was only going to school in the afternoons, and had an at-home mother--I told my siblings (probably just older brother and just younger sister) that we had a much older sister named June.  Yep, I had a whole story made up about her: she was in college out in Washington back where the rest of our extended family lived, which was why my siblings didn't know about her.  They were, as you might guess, somewhat skeptical about this sister.  I mean, why would my parents name a daughter June, anyway?  Not to mention the fact that our parents were only in their early thirties at that point, making a college-aged child mathematically impossible.  But my older-brother was only in second grade at the time, and the Dump not even in school yet, and though I have smart siblings, I counted on my ability to spin a story.

And then there was this:  I suggested they ask our mother, knowing the truth would out.  But that would be okay as well.  They'd still been told the story, and told it well enough that they had to ask.  But it must have been a slow day when they asked Mom.  She must have been bored with all the domestic tasks she always hated, must have longed to teach, or do anything creative.  When Mom was asked about big sister, June, she answered, "Why yes, of course you have a big sister June.  June Joanne.  If you give me a minute, I'll find her last letter."  I remember this so well. And I'm telling you, I think my mouth dropped as far open as the Dump's.  Later, I asked Mom if it was really true, what I thought I'd made up, and she looked straight at me, and said, "What do you think?"  Then she went back to her ironing.
Wait, no she didn't.  My mother would not have been ironing. See, there I am making things up again.  Changing the story.  She probably went back to her reading.  Maybe doing the laundry, or fixing dinner, but not doing the ironing.
But she definitely did, that one time, back up my invented older sister.  And I've never forgotten.

But she also learned something about me from that early story that I should have learned as well.  Mom learned that I like fiction.  That I embellish even true stories to make them sound more profound, important, powerful, pathetic.  Whatever it is I need them to say.  Perhaps that isn't something I should admit here where all this blog is is my stories, and my reflection about them. For most of my childhood and youth, my mother was inclined to question my word. She got it--straight from my mouth, and off the sheets of the many pages of notebook paper I left lying around--that I was more interested in telling stories than in telling the truth.  And that came back to bite me more than once.

However, I've learned in my more than half century on this planet, and 37 years of walking with Jesus, that sometimes I learn truth most through story.  Sometimes through the stories I've told that have gotten me into hot water, but many, many times through the everyday stories that call me to truth.  But I've also learned that mostly I love true stories that reveal truth, so these are the ones I hunger to tell.

A show of unexpected grace that radiates across a room, like the one in the doctor's waiting room today with an old man and a younger one.  The older one almost took a header going out the door and the younger man (and by that I mean someone about 40) leapt up, and caught him before he landed.  It was quite an athletic feat, one I couldn't have made in the time allowed.  I barely putting down my People magazine and climbing to my feet when it was all played out.  The young man grabbed the old man, then touched him gently on the shoulder. Then he continued out the door, where a paratransit bus waited in the rain.  The younger man went back to his seat.  Moment over.  But I love such moments, even when they are small ones.  There's truth in them--gospel truth of love lived out between humans.  A small story, and truth. God is in these moments, in these stories. Yes, it's in the stories of life that I most see God in action.

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