The Power of Story Telling Part One: A Light in the Darkness

If a story isn’t literally true, why cling onto the stories? While growing up I was told the Bible was special and sacred preciously because every story literally happened and were historical fact. Adam and Eve were historical figures, Jesus was literally God/the son of God, the resurrection story is a historical reality,and Jesus’ second coming was an event that was actually going to happen in the near future.  I no longer believe the Bible to literally true, yet I still find comfort in some of the stories. Many might wonder why I cling onto said stories, especially when numerous others have discarded the stories as vain, horrible and obsolete. Many people, like me, have been unable to reconcile historical knowledge and scientific fact with the Bible yet unlike me they have deemed the Bible to simply be trash. But I haven’t. Why?

The simple answer is that I love stories. The Bible, just like some of the stories in the Doctor Who series resonates deeply with me. While I know some Christians might reconcile with horror that I am comparing their sacred texts with a “silly” modern show, for me such distinctions are irrelevant. Stories, regardless of whether they are ancient and thousands of years old can have power and meaning; the power and meaning they have depends on how much the reader (or viewer) assigns to said stories. For some the Bible is a book of silly fairy tales, for others the basis of their whole life. Neither view is inherently wrong  or right. Stories only have the power assigned to them by the reader/viewer.

What the Bible means to me:

The Bible has been a source of inspiration to me during some of my darkest moments. As someone who grew up with a not so great family life and severe depression to boot, I often feel angry and defensive. I find it hard to trust others, and some days I find it hard get out of bed.  I know that there are some horrible and violent stories in the Bible (more on that next post) but there are some beautiful stories that have helped me during my darkest moments.

One such story can be found in 1st Kings 19: 4-14. Elijah a powerful prophet of God is anxious, tired, depressed, and scared. He is tired of living. He says: ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.”

I, as many others suffering from severe depression, can attest to feeling that way. Why continue living? What is the point?

Yet the Deity figure in the text, does not let Elijah die. In fact, He is there with him every step of the way. He sends an angel to comfort and feed Elijah and God even “shows up.” Not in a hurricane, fire, or earthquake-all powerful demonstrations of God’s might that one’s sees in other texts, but God shows up in “the sound of sheer silence.”

Depression can often feel like a prison, one is trapped and unable to get out. It is painful and lonely, but this story helps me realize I am not alone. This story comforts me. So many of us what a deity figure or another person to save us from our pain in a flash of thunder or lighting, we want a dramatic Damascus moment, but sometimes our healing comes in small insignificant moments. When a friend calls you or hugs you, when you read your favorite book or watch a movie, when you laugh with a friend. Sometimes even silence can be healing.  

Doctor Who

For many it is understandable that one might find hope and inspiration in “sacred” texts, but in a tv show? Many find such an idea laughable especially when one tells them about Doctor Who: A tv show about a man who travels through time and space in an old fashioned police box, who fights weird looking aliens with CGI effects that can look extremely cheesy…how can anyone possibly find meaning in that show?

Yet people have. I posted the following question on two different facebook groups:

Just wondering, what does “Doctor who” mean to you guys? Is it just a silly tv show that you find entertaining, has you taught you valuable life lessons or a mixture of both? I def find the show to be funny and entertaining, but the show has also been kind of a lifeline for me. It’s been a dark past few months, things have been hard and the show is really helping me get through each day. Just wanted to know if others feel this way or if I am just super super weird.

And the responses surprised me yet also demonstrated how much the show means to people, especially those going through a difficult time. 

One person wrote: Doctor Who helped me through some of the worst times of my life and continues to do so. It is my escape, my therapy and my land of dreams. It helps me see what I could or would not see on my own and will always be there for me, either in past episodes or new ones.

Another person stated: I must agree with everyone here. I just started watching in December, and it’s been incredibly healing. The past year has been a huge year of transition for me and really a new chapter in my life, and that’s what the show is all about at its heart(s). Transition, impermanence, new beginnings, loss, and just learning to move on with life as it moves and changes around you.

A reddit link provides more stories of how important the show has been to some fans:

One person writes: I started watching it just this last August, when I was in the depths of depression after my final attempt at IVF had ended in a miscarriage at 10 weeks. Watching all the new shows, plus Torchwood, plus reading a ton of fanfiction gave me something outside myself to focus on. It let me step outside my sadness and my body and into a world with hope in it, a world where you could carry on even when the worst possible things happen. It let me mourn my fertility in the back of my mind by taking up the position of the front of my mind, if that makes any sense, and kept me (mostly) from despair.

I’m still healing, and I still have bad days. And I still have the Doctor.

Another person writes: I’ve just been getting into Doctor Who this year. It’s quite a brilliant show and I fell in love from the first episode with 9 telling Rose to run. A bit of background, but I’ve been going through quite a tough time as of late dealing with depression, addiction, what have you. Doctor Who gave me a chance to escape my problems and my world for a fleeting moment at a time. 9 taught me what it was like to give all of myself to someone and to appreciate those around me. 10 taught me to be excited about life, even if you don’t know what the hell is going on. He taught me what it’s like to make the right decision, even if its the hardest thing to do. 11 taught me that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a little weird and being who you are is brilliant. I suppose the Doctor has changed my life for the better.

As cheesy as this sounds, I can relate to the posts others have posted about how the show has helped them through difficult times. The past few months have been extremely difficult. My depression has veered it’s ugly heads and I was treated horribly by an institution that frequently claims to love social justice and the gospel. Not to mention I still struggle with some events from my childhood, and I cannot stress enough the sense of loneliness that can be so alienating and prevent me from reaching out to others. The show has provided me not only with an occasional escape, where I can travel to distant planets or visit Vincent Van Gough, but the themes the show deals with: loneliness, change, etc are universal experiences. Sometimes we need reminding that what we are not the only ones to experience intense heartbreak, betrayal, or depression. We…I. need to be reminded that I am not alone. And the show, with its vast community of fans reminds me of that. But even when I feel as if I don’t quite belong in the whovian community or in the Church or anywhere else for that matter, the fact that the show is dealing with universal themes reminds me I am not alone. 

Stories-serve as a reminder during dark moments that we are never alone, that others have experienced said pain and have survived. Stories-whether they are thousands of years old and considered to be sacred, or fairly modern and part of a “silly” tv show, have an important place in our lives. 

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4 thoughts on “The Power of Story Telling Part One: A Light in the Darkness

  1. I LOVE Doctor Who and am a recent “convert” to whovianism lol. I do however believe the bible to be truth – even the parts that are difficult to believe. I believe that when reading the bible, we should always try to discern the original context and meanin of the original author to his original audience in order to have a better understanding. I highly recommend “Grasping God’s Word” by Duvall and Hays for learning how to do this.

    • I actually have done research and study on the Bible, it’s historical audience and the long historical process that is the canonization of the various books that make up what we call the Bible. I have just come to a different conclusion then you have. I do not view the Bible as “truth” though I do think it does provide truths about humanity and culture and I still think it can be a useful tool. But thanks!

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