Life doesn't come to us like a math problem. It comes to us the way that a story does, scene by scene. You wake up. What will happen next? You don't get to know—you have to enter in, take the journey as it comes. The sun might be shining. There might be a tornado outside. Your friends might call and invite you to go sailing. You might lose your job.
Life unfolds like a drama. Doesn't it? Each day has a beginning and an end. There are all sorts of characters, all sorts of settings. A year goes by like a chapter from a novel. Sometimes it seems like a tragedy. Sometimes like a comedy. Most of it feels like a soap opera. Whatever happens, it's a story through and through.
"All of life is a story," Madeleine L'Engle reminds us.
This is helpful to know. When it comes to figuring out this life you're living, you'd do well to know the rest of the story.
You come home one night to find that your car has been totaled. Now, all you know is that you loaned it for a couple of hours to your teenage daughter, and now here it is, all smashed up. Isn't the first thing out of your mouth, "What happened? " In other words, "Tell me the story."
Somebody has some explaining to do, and that can be done only in hearing the tale they have to tell. Careful now—you might jump to the wrong conclusion. Doesn't it make a difference to know that she wasn't speeding, that in fact the other car ran a red light? It changes the way you feel about the whole thing. Thank God, she's all right.
Truth be told, you need to know the rest of the story if you want to understand just about anything in life. Love affairs, layoffs, the collapse of empires, your child's day at school—none of it makes sense without a story.