One of the reasons I’ve always loved fiction is that it can take mere facts and make them mean something to us. More, they can take a familiar story and show us a side of it we’ve never considered. Stories can take the truth and shine the Truth upon it. They can help us see beyond OUR truth to HIS Truth.
It’s a curious thing though, isn’t it? For anyone who believes in absolute Truth, the idea of truth-with-a-little-t can be odd. If something’s true, factual, actual…then doesn’t that mean it’s True?
No. And here’s why.
The same facts can tell many stories. One story may seem true to you–absolutely, beyond reproach, undeniably TRUE. But to me, it will ring false. Because to me, some other story seems truer.
Seems. Feels. Appears. These are not words that belong to God’s truth, right? So how do we separate them from ours?
This is a theme I explore quite a bit in A Portrait of Loyalty. My heroine is a photographer who spends her days altering and creating photographs for the war effort–falsified photos meant to leak false information, protect agents in the field, and help the Admiralty tell a story. Sometimes that story is true, and sometimes it’s just necessary. But always it has its basis is facts. She takes pieces of this truth, pieces of that truth, and creates a story with them in a new photo.
At a key point in the story, when the Admiral is presented with facts that would paint someone in a terrible light, she reminds him of this: “Remember that the same facts can tell multiple stories. You’ve taught me that.”
We can use the same information, the same true things, to draw very different conclusions.
This is in some ways simply part of humanity. But it’s also a part we need to remain always aware of, if we want to guard against it in ourselves and in matters of spiritual urgency. If we want to #BeBetter, we need to remember that there really is THEIR truth, there is OUR truth…but even more, there is His Truth. And it is neither theirs nor ours, most likely. It is something different. It is something higher, better. More filled with love.
It’s hard for us as mere humans to separate our own story, our own perspective, from what is True. Experiences make us feel a certain way. And that feeling is more true to us than logical arguments people present. But here’s what I’ve come to realize:
Just because we legitimately feel something, doesn’t mean that the feeling is legitimate. It doesn’t mean we should feel that. Morever, we do not have to be ruled by it. Feelings should never be granted the power of a dictator over our lives. We don’t have to be a slave to our emotions. We do not have to feel a certain way.
This is why we’re told to take our thoughts captive. This is why Shakespeare, in a clever twist on that, talked about being captives to our thoughts.
The power of story is to take facts and ideas and possibilities and craft a new truth from them. Sometimes, a higher Truth than what we may actually see in the world around us. Fiction may not be true, but it is often True.
In our daily lives, we need to remember that too. That our own stories are only one perspective in this novel of Life. But there are others around us, and they are seeing facts we’re not. Having experiences we’re not. We can’t truly know what someone else’s life is like…until someone tells us their story. Then, suddenly, we can see a different side to Truth.
The challenge I’ve put to myself lately, and which I invite you to take up as well, is to pause when we hear something that immediately makes us feel. To pause, to examine our own reactions, and to seek out what other story someone else is living to make them think differently. Examine the story. Examine their truth. When you do, I bet you’ll come to see their side. I bet–and this is the key–you’ll start to empathize. You’ll start to love them as Christ loves them.
Only then do we really approach His ultimate Truth.