“All the best stories which have been told or lived out before this are like dreams compared to the real story that we will all eventually wake up into. That story is one that never ends, ‘in which every chapter is better than the one before.’
In other words, heaven is like a story, but one that is better than the best book you have ever read. The hints that Lucy got in the magician’s book, or the hints that you get when you read a really great book or have an especially good dream—those all point to the final book.
All earthly stories end, even when they are so good that you wish they would go on and on for thousands of pages more. But this final story will not end. Every chapter is richer, fuller, and more thrilling than the last. Eternal life is the ultimate story.
Every good story foretells this last one in some way. Every good story that is told here on earth has a kind of shadowy reality, but it always taps into a deeper reality and truth.
J. R. R. Tolkien was once asked if he thought that The Lord of the Rings had actually happened somewhere, at some time. He replied, ‘One hopes.’ Lewis and Tolkien believed that storytelling was much more than just making something up. It was about human writers, as bearers of God’s image, imitating God’s work of creation.
Even though they cannot create physical things in reality, they can still create worlds that resonate with the truth of God’s reality. This is why Lewis said that a good adventure story is truer than a dull history.
The events in the story might not have happened, but it more closely resembles the type of world that God made than a soulless retelling of true events. And when we finally enter heaven we will realize in full how all the best stories were prefiguring that last, greatest story of all…
It is so important for you to devote yourself to reading good stories. Life is too short for bad ones. Learn to read good stories and learn to write good stories too. Practice writing good stories by writing really bad ones, and by showing them to your teachers and parents and friends so they can help you make better stories.
The Christian world needs far more good storytellers than it has. Some of us might be tempted to think that the Christian world needs more theology books instead, but I think that is fundamentally against the spirit of the Bible. The Bible is not a book full of theology and doctrine.
It is a book full of stories, poetry, prophecies, and songs, along with a few doctrinal books. Of course, I am not saying theology and doctrine are unimportant; they are essential. But most of God’s word comes to us in the form of story.
Whether they are the parables of Jesus or the great stories of the Old Testament, like David defeating Goliath, Jehoshaphat conquering with the choir in front of the army, the walls of Jericho falling down, the escape from Egypt and the dividing of the Red Sea—they all remind us to think about the Christian life and our relationship to God as a story. We are supposed to live like we are in one of God’s stories.
This is why I believe that one of the most important things C. S. Lewis did for the Christian world was to bring back the centrality of storytelling. We do not need to feel guilty about loving these stories. We do not need to think, ‘If I were a real Christian I would be reading something more serious instead of these stories.’
Rather, we are supposed to love stories. We are supposed to think in these categories and try out these thought experiments. If you were with King Tirian in The Last Battle, what would you do? If you were sailing on the Dawn Treader, what kind of character would you be?
How would you react in this or that situation? We are continually telling ourselves stories all day long. We convince ourselves that we are a certain kind of character and that our friends and family and other people we meet are other kinds of characters. What kind of story are you telling? Is it true?”
–Douglas Wilson, What I Learned in Narnia (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2010), 125-127.