Princess Bride & The Story of God
As a dad, I like to read with my children. We have read the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson, and we are in the midst of The Harry Potter series (preparing to start Order of the Phoenix), just to name a few. It is a time for us to connect, to laugh, to discuss history and people and life.
And so, when I recently watched The Princess Bride again, it struck me differently this time. If you have not seen the movie, it begins with what looks like a nine or ten year-old boy at home from school because he is sick. The grandfather comes to visit and brings with him a book that he says his father used to read to him and that he read to the grandson’s father.
At one point in the conversation, the grandson asks his grandfather if the book has any sports in it, this is the grandfather’s answer.
“Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles.”
The grandson responds as grandsons do and says he will try to stay awake. The grandfather then begins reading the story. The movie takes you through the book as the grandfather narrates it to the grandson. He spins a delightful tale around the trials of Westley and Buttercup and their eventual happily ever after. One of my college professors would have described it as a “cracklin’ good yarn.”
Watching the grandfather read to his grandson really reminded me of what I try to do with my children. He is trying to connect, to cheer up, to share life, and spend time with his grandson. He is also trying to say in some implicit way, “this has value” or “this is important.”
As I ruminated on the grandfather’s comments, one other point I realized is that his description of the book could be used to describe the Bible. As I write this statement though, I can picture the dialogue I would have with a lot of people.
Me: I have a book for you to read
Them: Really, what is it about? Is it any good?
Me: [Quoting the grandfather] “Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles.”
Them: It sounds intriguing. What is the title?
Me: The Bible
Them: [Quoting the grandson] “I’ll try to stay awake.”
I hope you are laughing a little bit. But to quote Al Capone in The Untouchables, “we laugh because it’s funny and we laugh because it’s true.”
As followers of Christ, we say the Bible is important (which it is) and that it has immense value (which it does). But too often, when we think about reading it, we view it on the same level as reading an instruction manual from Ikea – necessary but boring, dry, and confusing.
To be fair, it is not always an easy read cover-to-cover. It was written over a period of more than 2000 years, contains 66 books, originally written in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek), and had over 40 different authors. There are multiple genres within the texts, from poetry and prose, to history to prophecy, to letters and biography.
But the amazing thing about the Bible is that God reveals Himself through each page and each book that the earthly authors wrote, divinely inspiring the text and bringing a holistic unity to the narrative.
It starts with an almighty perfect God creating everything out of nothing and calling it very good. The people He created disobey and rebel against Him, and though there are severe consequences to this rebellion, the Lord promises that He will send One who will defeat the enemy and save His people. What follows is the historical journey of people as they rebel from God and then turn to God over and over again. In the midst of the rebellion, the Lord raises up individuals to call the disobedient to return and repent. Throughout history the Lord directs people toward holiness not simply happiness.
The Lord then comes to dwell among His people and live a perfect life so that He could pay the penalty for our sin, being raised to life three days after His death, and ascending back into heaven, until one day He will return again vanquishing death and sin permanently. He is the Promised One and it is through Him that there is a true happily ever after.
When I fall into reading it more out of habit instead of joy, more out of necessity than delight, I have to step back and remind myself of this amazing truth and ask the Lord to help me see Him.
At the end of The Princess Bride, something remarkable happens. The grandfather finishes the book and closes the cover. He gets up to leave so his grandson can rest. As he gets ready to leave the room, the grandson says, “Maybe you could come over and read it again to me tomorrow.”
The Bible can be like that too – reading it leads to the desire to read it. As I go through the Bible with my children, I want them to see it with wonder and amazement not just because of what it says, but because of who said it. It is the very Creator of everything speaking to us personally and telling us about Himself and saying “this has value” and “this is important.”