Between stories and real life



By Jessica Tanner
PREVIEW Columnist

In my head, I hear the sounds of the latest story I’ve dreamed up. Cannons blaze from ships that can fly. A hero scales a castle wall to rescue a fair maiden from a kingdom under siege. Too bad he doesn’t know she’s the daughter of a captain and has excellent aim with a musket. The smell of gunpowder coats my nostrils. Whinnies from frightened horses and the shouts from terrified civilians mix with sharp pops, reverberating bangs and deep booms.

And then my mind goes blank. My hero is inches from cresting the lip of the castle wall and my damsel fires at the leading ship. But now what? Does her shot succeed? Is the hero discovered at the last moment by a soldier going for supplies? I’m not sure. My ink-stained fingers, pinching my newest pen, hover over the page.

Real life — especially emergencies — don’t pause for a stilled pen. Sirens blare and the chatter of emergency personnel mix together. We can’t go back up the page and try to unwind the action so we better understand the scene. Tears blur our eyes. Fear coats our throats. There’s no slowing down — until we’re sitting in the waiting room in the middle of the night.

We wait, shoulders tense and minds groggy, for an update about our loved one. Will she be all right? Will the damage sustained keep her from doing the things she loves — like smiling and engaging with family? In the silence, the waiting, we turn to God. We pray He returns everything to the way it was before. But we never grow, become better, when things stay the same.

God’s quiet voice fills us. Sometimes it allows us to rest. Sometimes it fills us with a sense of peace. Everything is in His hands.

So, back to the story. What should happen next?

The damsel’s shot misses the ship. A stray bullet hits her in the shoulder, causing her to drop her musket before firing again. The hero crests the wall only to be spotted. He runs, searching for her in the chaos and the gun smoke.

If my story doesn’t imitate real life to some extent, if my characters do not face challenges, how will my readers ever see beyond their own trouble to hope? God’s son, Jesus, used story to shine hope in the world. I want to emulate him, to inspire people to pray while they wait. Something good will come. Something good has come — God’s love.

A reader picks up my book to distract herself from her trauma. The pages flip by, the story lives inside her head. She’ll suck up the last page like the end of her favorite smoothie, filling herself with a small satisfaction. The hero saves his fair maiden.

I set aside my pen.

The rhythmic thump of footsteps echoes into our waiting room. We look up. A nurse enters and delivers good news about our loved one. Our prayers are heard.

Acts 20: 35: “In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (RSV).

This column includes both fiction and nonfiction, and views expressed do not necessarily represent those of The SUN. Submissions can be sent to