The Layer of Story

I love stories. the idea that truth is found in the narrative is central to my view of God and of this mystery we call “the living word.” the beauty of the story is found in the ability of that “truth” to be found in the layers of story; the life in the metaphors and in the story line itself under the words, and into the life of the story. With a good story, one can be delighted with the intertwining truths and tensions that play back and forth on each other as if being pulled by the strings controlled by God. Sometimes, the truths explored are not even spoken, or written, they are implied; i find those to be the greatest of all stories. Implied truth is powerful, because you know it, everyone knows it, but you just can’t put it into words – do you see the power?

Some of the greatest of these stories come from our ancient past. Modern stories are designed to bring about one point, one lesson, and one truth. Modern stories are designed with a linier plot and direction. Ancient stories are not limited with “enlightened” modern reasoning, so the story had a great many dimensions. They are complex, yet simple. Let me share with you a story that was shared with me as a child, and i think you will see what i mean. See if you can find the layers of truth, the layers of the story.

The story is an old Irish story. I believe all cultures have similar stories.

“The crying women”

“It has been said that a women walks the streets of Kilarny in her deepest of heart sorrows. She walks the streets in search of the lost. But the story began many years back, at the time of the ancient kings or Ireland, when the clans ruled, the bards roamed and the people knew of God.

In the village lived a beautiful young colleen named Caoilfhionn (cee-lin; meaning “slender and fair). Her hair was the color of an autumn night fire and her eyes were as blue as the midday sky. All the lads in the village were in love with her – and she knew it. Each night before bed she would tell her mother that she was going to marry the most handsome man in the world. And each night her mother would tell her to seek the heart of the man, and not his beauty. Each time her mother would say that looks are not important she would say, “Oh mother, it is silly for you to say that? Why must I look into the heart of the man, when I am so beautiful and all the men in town want me, and none are worthy of my beauty. I can pick who I desire, and when I see him I will know.” and each night her mother would add, “my dear child look into the heart and not into the face.”

Each night, Caoilfhionn would dream or her perfect man, tall as a tree, strong as a stag, with hair the color of fire and the eyes the color of clover. The sound of his laughter would be the sound of the sea between the waves and the foam.

One day, as the village gather for a community celebration, Caoilfhionn noticed a handsome stranger standing by the community pot. He was as tall as a tree, as strong as a stag, the color of his hair was that of fire and his eyes were the color of clover. Then he laughed, and it was the sound of the sea between the waves and the foam. At that moment she knew that this was the man she would marry. That night she told her mother and father that this was the man she would marry. But both her mother and father told her that he was not the marrying kind, and that the marriage would bring only pain. Caoilfhionn did not listen, and within three months she married the hansom stranger named Aidan (ay-dan, meaning “fire”).

As a gift, Caoilfhionn’s father gave her a small house and some land by the cliffs, by the sea. For a few years Aidan tried to be a farmer, but it was not for him and soon he would be off with friends traveling and partaking in great tain bo’s (adventures called “cattle raids” in the old Gaelic). Caoilfhionn was heartbroken at his being gone, and when he returned he would spend more time with the children, then he would with her, after one tain bo she approached him and said, “you never spend time with me anymore, why?” to which he replied, “you have grown fat and old I think I desire a younger and prettier wife.” with that he left. For the next three weeks she was crushed and cried herself to sleep each night. As time passed, her heart was turning to stone as she was crying over her pain. Then one day, she was looking out the window and saw Aidan approach – but this time he was not alone, he had a pretty women with him. As he came to the house he spoke with the children, but did not even say hello to Caoilfhionn. She became angry and was filled with jealousy. In the heart of her pain she grabs her children and tossed them off the cliff into the crashing sea below. Instantly, she knew she had done a great wrong, and in her deeper pain she threw herself off the cliffs to find her children.

To this day it is said that any children who are out in the village after dusk can hear her crying for her lost children and several children have disappeared over the years.”

The story has been used in modern times to keep kids in the house after dark, but as you can see the layers shout to be seen, and I say “seen” because all good story bring to life pictures of what they speak – lessons for life are found in the story, lessons about allowing bitterness to control your life, lessons on seeing the person others see, lessons of seeking the heart and not the face, lessons of grief and loss – the lessons abound and jump out at the listener.

Story is the truth we seek to live in – the narrative of Christ is the narrative of a real person, with real encounter and real love, grace and forgiveness. It is not our place to share the “rules” – but it is our place to share the story, the “living word.”