I want to tell you a story about my life and where I live it.
I could tell you about the unfenced acres, the garden, the trees shooting up, the shop that collects boys and the house that collects memories. I could tell you how the fire burns in the morning before the burning sky is lit and how the girls made cookies last night, just because. With broad strokes and artful touches I could retell late night talks about God and our anger and His mercy and our wrath, about forgiveness and the weight of our yoke.
The turkeys gather across the creek and the mourning doves fluff themselves under my window, in the rocks where the patio might be someday. I can recall the goose that parked on the peak of the roof, waiting for its mate, waiting to fly together to the neighbor’s pond. The deer outside the garden, who don’t know what they’re missing because the grass is so green; the dog who is sentinel and not terror, who smells like a skunk, looks like a dirty mop, and is loved like a princess; the animals that cross our 1/20th of a Hundred Acre Wood are a mix of wild and willing. One day we are feeding them; the next they may be feeding us.
There are always a hundred ways to tell a story but we have to choose one at a time.
Somedays I only want to tell you about the robin who bounced into the window weeks ago, who sat stunned and recovering on the porch for a whole hour until she took flight again, scared, forced away before her feathers were back in place because of a certain dog who was excited. She flew straight and fine, and I watched her land on a post by the creek. She wanted to wait longer but it was time and there wasn’t time.
I want to tell you that story because you need time to recover but you may not get all you need, may not feel ready to go again after your hard fall. But you can.
The nastiness of her bounce into the window is still there this morning, smeared grossly across glass that was already unclean. That’s another side of the story—how I get used to things disheveled and stained and broken, things waiting for scrubbing, for fixing. I wait too long. I learn to look right through.
None of the stories I tell you are lies.
At times I tell lies to myself—or, at least, I tell truths in an ungracious manner—about how your homes are cleaner and your gardens better; how your kids love you more because you gripe at them less and are less annoyed by their shoes and their books and their cups crusting over; how your meals are organic and fresh, your body is easy and care-free, and you love to balance the budget and pay the bills promptly.
Some of those stories are true and maybe all of them are, but not all at once, not all the time, not for everyone.
Every story has a way to tell it and do it justice.
We keep telling a story these days about doom and despair and where-have-we-gone. We insert Scripture to inject a little hope and our moral teaching falls flat to the dust, sprawled in decay, because our mouth speaks a story our hearts don’t hear won’t hear can’t hear. We can’t hear.
We have to tell the whole story.
We have to hear the whole story.
In the garden a few weeks ago I threw away last year’s strawberry net. I had left it on for the winter because I forgot all about it after the last harvest (how I use and abuse those poor strawberries; how everything looks great in the garden from the living room window). Our little bit of snow this winter made a blanket to flatten my plants, pushing them all through the tangled net. On top of the snow came branches and debris. I had to pull off the layers and un-bury the plants, tearing some of them and ripping the net in the process. The net is garbage because I was too lazy to deal with it when it was time.
Whether I tell you about the garden from my living room window or from the garden gate, the same story will be different and you’ll hear what you see or see what you hear. We’ll each make a decision, as teller and listener.
I’ve read the Bible through a couple times. If I’ve read a book twenty times, it’s possible I’ve heard it twenty different ways—all of them true but each time from a different place. From the window. From the gate. Portions of Scripture are imbedded in my soul and they bend the sound of other, lesser books, of movies and voices and news I hear (whether I want to or not). They bend me toward a kingdom to come and already here, where righteousness dwells inside the very least, and the view of the garden is the same at the gate as it is at the window.
Be careful little ears, what you hear and how. And be careful little mouth, so full of power, how you tell the story.