Yesterday I saw the movie Bedtime Stories. It is a delightful tale that provides helpful insight into the value of stories, of myths and fables. If you haven’t seen it, you may want to do so before reading this post – there won’t be any spoilers per se, but in offering some suggestions about the movie’s message and significance, I may give things away that are better discovered in the course of watching.
The movie’s message, in my opinion, is that classic stories and ones made up on the spot can be valuable, not because they tell us that there will inevitably be happy endings, but because, through our identification with the characters in the story, they give us clues on how to bring about happy endings. Throughout the movie, Adam Sandler’s character finds himself in situations unnervingly similar to ones in the stories he has told to (and with contributions from) his niece and nephew. But while the correspondences in the movie are at times surreal, the point is not: having stories as a guide helps us spot opportunities to act, contribute, be a hero, succeed, and do many other things – opportunities we might simply have overlooked if we were not “keyed in” to their potential to allow us to reenact mythic or other classic story elements.
After watching it, I found myself reflecting on how the Bible can function in a similar way for Christians. Most people of devout faith can share stories of experiences that have seemed to them miraculous. This is not the first time that I’ve wondered whether Christians often have such experiences simply because expecting God to “come through in the end” leads to a tenacity, a persistence, and a patience that allows more room for the situation to work itself out in a more positive outcome. I’m not suggesting that all stories about “miracles” (however one defines that term) reflect precisely that sort of experience. But it seems to me that in a similar way to the classic stories that fall under the umbrella of the fairy tale, cowboy, knight in shining armor, space explorer, insert favorite genre here, so too fitting one’s experience into David vs. Goliath, Joshua at the walls of Jericho, Nehemiah rebuilding Jerusalem, Peter finding forgiveness, these classic stories raise our expectations that our own stories will have positive outcomes, as we identify (even if only subconsciously) with the characters in them.
And whether you attribute those outcomes to divine interventions or not, the power of stories themselves to shape our lives in positive ways, and to guide us into paths that lead us onward instead of giving up in despair, probably deserves to be called “miraculous”.
Bedtime Stories is an enjoyable, humorous, family-friendly movie, and I recommend it.