Sunday, January 1, 2012

Once upon a time

Once upon a time there was a girl named Shadow, who lived with her Mom and Dad, her little baby brother, and her dog named Gus1...

These words marked the start of the final phase of our daughter's bed time routine. After teeth had been brushed, prayers had been said, and Bible stories had been read, she would ask for what became known as a “Shadow Story.”

The little girl wasn't always Shadow. Initially, the stories would begin, “Once upon a time there was a little girl named...” and we would pause to give our daughter the chance to name the heroine. But she quickly settled on the name Shadow and we stopped asking. The issue of Shadow's name was settled much more quickly than any other detail of the stories. For example, Shadow was frequently a little boy. But now she is quite firmly and irrevocably a little girl, and her name is Shadow.

Since you've never been a part of our daughter's bed time routine, you're probably wondering at the types of adventures Shadow faces on a nightly basis. If you are looking for tales of orcs and aliens and toothy cows, I'm afraid you would be disappointed. Shadow's life is very similar to our daughter's, albeit somewhat accelerated. One night Shadow might go on a trip to her grandmother's, the next she might learn to ride a bicycle. When my wife was the storyteller, Shadow's activities tended to mirror our daughter's activities for that day. When I told them, Shadow got to experience things our daughter had yet to do, such as walking to the corner store on her own. Sometimes our daughter even crossed paths with Shadow in the story, such as the time Gus was lost and Shadow posted signs around our neighborhood. Our daughter found Gus and was able to return him safely to Shadow. This is probably her all-time favorite “Shadow Story”.

I mention all of this because the Bible is also full of shadow stories. In the introduction to The Jesus Storybook Bible, author Sally Lloyd-Jones writes:

There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story... And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every Story in the Bible whispers his name.
The Bible is God's Story of His Son, and many of the threads in that great narrative tapestry reveal to us aspects of the work and person of the central character. Adam, Joseph, Jonah, and many others, are all shadows, or types, of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Of course, shadows are just two-dimensional monochrome projections. They cannot express the depth or the full character of the object itself. Depending on the slant of light, they may also exaggerate or distort certain dimensions of their source. These biblical shadows are similarly imperfect and incomplete. But just as we can identify the tapered silhouette of a Coke bottle, even with a skewed projection, we can still see in these imperfect stories the familiar characteristics of the Saviour.

This blog is going to consider these shadow stories of the Bible. In doing so, my goal is not to force images where none exist. You do not, and should not, have to squint while standing on your head at dusk to see the presence of the Saviour in the pages of Scripture. Indeed, many of the people and objects we will consider are clearly identified in the New Testament as foreshadowing Jesus. And just as a good book can help us see the everyday with fresh eyes, I believe that God has chosen to include these shadow stories to illuminate truths about Christ with which we have become too familiar.

That last line would better read, “with which I have become too familiar” because I am writing primarily for myself. I need to see Him with fresh eyes. I need to deepen in my appreciation of who He is and what He has done. If you find yourself in a similar state, I trust you will join me as we listen to God's shadow stories of His Son.

Once upon a time...

1Gus should rhyme with Puss, as in “Puss-in-boots.” I cannot over-emphasize the importance of this detail.

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