The Healing Power of Narrative


I believe what distinguishes us as a species is not our technological prowess, but rather our extraordinary ability to confer meaning on our experience and to search for clues about our purpose from the world around us. I believe, too, that meaning of this kind—call it existential meaning—has from the beginning been the product of our other great distinguishing aptitude: the ability to communicate symbolically through language. Indeed, language is the soil, the seedbed, of meaning.—Sven Birkerts

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Many have spoken or written of the healing power of narrative. I, personally, can attest to its power. Who hasn't found great solace in the rich treasuries of literary history like Huck Finn, Moby Dick, Treasure Island, The Chronicles of Narnia, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, or even Winnie-the-Pooh or Grimm’s Fairy Tales?

Jesus, too, loved stories, and He told many; tradition calls them The Parables of Jesus. In fact, the way Jesus lived was, in many ways, a parable in and of itself. To those closest to Jesus, the way He lived seemed at times every bit as challenging to understand as the stories He told. Why was this? I think it was probably the inevitable result of the infinite Word of God incarnating Himself in the limiting contexts of a finite language, a particular cultural tradition, and the spirit-body of the man Jesus. Second to that, I think God extracts great pleasure from creating mystery, for God knows our encountering of mystery has a way of awakening something within us. And God's all about that—awakening us, that is.

So, yes, narrative can be a source of healing to us—a vehicle, even, in which God carries us to another place in our healing and our awakening as His children. Sometimes, to find the healing we need, we need to immerse ourselves in story—into that which dramatically draws us in and touches us in an arena of life where we're feeling lost, down, misunderstood, or, perhaps, just misplaced. Provided below is a list of stories (and story compilations) God has used to bring about significant healing in my life. Maybe they've had (or will someday have) a similar effect on you.

God's peace...

A Few of My Favorite Healing Narratives

The Holy Bible (all of it, but especially The Psalms and The Parables of Jesus)

The Chronicles of Narnia (all of them, but especially The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

The Screwtape Letters

Anything from the Anne of Green Gables stories

Joshua, A Parable for Today

Joshua and the Children

Little Women

The Pilgrim's Progress

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Nine O'Clock in the Morning

Uncle Tom's Cabin

Treasure Island

Anything from the Winnie the Pooh stories

The Servant

The Alchemist

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde​

Who Moved My Cheese

"Yes" or "No"

Hinds' Feet on High Places

Mountains of Spices

Way of the Peaceful warrior

The Journeys of Socrates

The Frontiersman

Johnny Tremain

The Book of Virtues

The Red Badge of Courage

Band of Brothers

Cinderella

Hamlet

Silas Marner

In His Steps

Anything from Grimm's Fair Tales

Emma

Pride and Predjudice

The Count of Monte Christo

The Lord of the Rings (all of them)

Les Miserables

Little Women

Sense and Sensibility

War and Remembrance

Biko (aka Cry Freedom)

Moby Dick

The Call of the Wild

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The Life You Were Born to Live