A friend of mine is losing her twelve year battle with cancer and soon her life will end. “I’m not doing anything to cure cancer,” I told a mutual friend. ” I write little stories that some people won’t read because ‘they aren’t even true.’”
But Frederick Buechner, theologian and novelist, gave me a new way to look at truth and story. In his book Secrets in the Dark, A Life in Sermons, he notes that fiction, from the word meaning to imagine, feign, or shape, is not true the way a photograph is true, capturing a moment in time. But fiction can be true the way a portrait is true, where we see something of the artist as well as a depth of the subject over time. His words give me room to appreciate rather than discount my efforts as a novelist. But I still hung onto my wish that I did something truly important in the world instead of just “writing stories.”
My friend didn’t join in my whine. “We are all writing the human story,” she said, “when we do what we’re called to do. You do what you can to ease suffering through your stories and the scientist does what she can to find that elusive cure. Together the story God wants written gets revised and expanded.”
Some of us have stories not yet published; yet we are authentic when we listen to that inner voice and write even if that day does not see publication of our work. Perhaps because I spent this past hour writing I will be more compassionate toward my husband as he suffers with a bad back. Maybe, because you finished that chapter or sent out that proposal you’ll give yourself permission to be more aware of the dullness in a neighbor’s eyes and take time to ask what you can do to help.
My friend went on to remind me that it takes imagination to bring about innovation and imagination is from the right brain. Imagination works quite well with those predominately left brain scientists. Together, each of us doing what we think we’re supposed to be doing, together, perhaps we’ll not only find that cancer cure but along the way we faithful story-tellers can help relieve the suffering of others along the way.
Jane Kirkpatrick is an award-winning author of 23 books, 20 of which are novels based on the lives of actual people or historical events. She writes both fiction and non-fiction. Her next book is a devotional for caregivers called Promises of Hope for Difficult Times (January, Harvest House). Jane lives with her husband and two dogs in Central Oregon. Visit her website at www.jkbooks.com to learn more about Jane and her books.