They say you should walk a mile in another person’s shoes, to understand that person’s perspective.
Likewise, those who soothe controversy propose a time of listening to each other’s story.
And I’ve been listening to stories – Christian books – this year. Books with stories, both fiction and non-fiction. There’s a hidden risk in listening to these stories. It’s the trouble with other people’s shoes.
The trouble exists even when the writing and story are both very good. I’ve found it this week while re-reading that C. S. Lewis classic, The Screwtape Letters. It’s a wonderful book, full of pointed yet loving observations of Christian foibles. I chuckle with recognition, then read on in search of the next wry smile. All I’m looking for is an enjoyable read.
This is the problem with story: all too often, the story will not change us.
The story becomes a comfy chair, in which we find our own idiosyncratic way to settle. We love the parts that reinforce what we already think (and so confirm us to be right). We know the novel or biography is not authoritative, so we can ignore those parts which challenge existing notions.
We walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, but only notice that ‘these shoes are a bit like mine.’ If the book is – in our opinion – a bad one, we think, ‘these shoes are nothing like mine.’
So much Christian writing is awful, I believe, because it allows us to choose something ‘inspiring’ and yet inoffensive.
We need to be return again and again to the Bible. The Bible is good story, and well-told. But much more than this, it’s dangerous, untamed, challenging. The Bible speaks with authority and demands a response.
In reading groups – which I like! – I think the pattern is read, ramble, remain the same. But when Paul describes what to do with God’s word, the pattern is reprove, rebuke and exhort (2 Tim 4:2). When the word of God come near, it cuts.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.