Bedtime Stories as a Discipline

I am reading a bit of a horror story at the moment.  The real horror is that it is not fiction. A Train In Winter tells the story of a group of women from France who were resisters and who ultimately arrive in Auschwitz. They had hidden Jews, had helped others escape, had printed newspapers that urged resistance. They had taken a bold stand, and they pay a horrendous price.

There are moments of humor, moments of grace and moments of terror.

I just finished reading a different story to the boys at night. That story is about three children and their mother and their grandfather. They face terrors of their own, including a reptilian army of bad guys called Fangs of Dang who are under the rule of Gnag the Nameless. There are moments of escape, moments of terror, moments of captivity and fear and lots of humor.  But this story is not true and so we are able to hear it and not be as afraid.

I think and feel strongly that it is important to expose the kids to stories. Lots of stories. Sometimes they will be better written than other times, but each story we have read has expanded their imagination and their thinking. Most have led to discussions about God and about hope and faith.

There will be a time when they will realize that there are real terrors and there are those who are deeply evil. There will be a time when they will know that there are horror stories that are not fiction.

They will have a foundation, though. The best stories have suspense and have a mixture of fear and hope…they capture our attention and show us that there are choices to be made and there is courage to be grasped.  The story we’ve just finished up was the third in the Wingfeather Saga, written by Andrew Peterson. So far this series has been the favorite of the boys, and we eagerly anticipate the last book in the series coming out this Fall. Andrew is a Christian and he weaves deeper truths throughout the story…hints of a greater story.

And that is where I’m headed. I want my kids to have an expanded imagination that gives them groundwork for imagining the impossible. Three children fleeing from an army of lizard-men…facing crazy, imagination filled obstacles. Their eyes light up as we read and they never want me to stop because they are engaged deeply.

One of the things that I love about my faith is that it is based so richly in story. We are called to imagine the impossible…God becoming man and saving us.  Better than that: God creating everything out of nothing. Everything. Grass that is not only amazing shades of grey, but fragrant. The colors of the rainbow and the sunrise and the sunset and the mountains. Ostriches and pufferfish.

God has laced our lives with imagination that created reality. We serve a Creator.

And so when the horrors come, and they will…there is story to hear and to give understanding. Story of Falls and of sin and of brokenness. Stories still of redemption and of hope and of salvation.

Stories.
They require us to be patient and hear how they will play out. As we are three books into this series the boys have had to learn that not everything will be explained in the first pages of a book. Wait and see what answer might unfold.

Reading to them and teaching them to listen well and pay attention is not just a bedtime routine. It is a discipline that is foundation…listen well and pay attention is the key to making it through this life.

Listen well and pay attention. Part of the mark of our Maker is in our stories and in our imaginations. Pay attention. Don’t rush to the last page because you’ll miss too much…be patient and listen to the Story.

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