Truth in Books

Emily Dickinson

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

I see truth dazzling clearly now as a parent when my children ask questions or make comments about something I’m reading to them, or something they’re reading to themselves. For instance, my 15-year-old daughter just read Nine Days a Queen and we had a great conversation about choices, both personal choices and those times when others make choices for you. She also just finished a book called This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years; the truth about her life and her abilities and her gifts is dazzling her.

My 8yo son fires up with indignation about how Henry VIII treated Catherine of Aragon as we read a book together. My 4yo asks “Who created God?” as we read Genesis together. Books incite our emotions and make us ask questions and challenge us and comfort us and entertain us. I don’t have to tell my kids they should dislike a certain character or ask questions about a certain event or cry at a certain part of the story. If the storyteller is any good at all, then the truth dazzles on its own without having to be pointed out specifically, no matter how much worldly experience my kids have or haven’t had.

And those books (or movies for that matter) that try to bypass the gradual dazzlement and instead exchange it for heavy-handed instruction, well those books usually don’t incite questions or intrude our thoughts. We read them, sigh, feel inferior or superior, and move on. The masterfully woven story leaves a mark on us. That is the mark that dazzles.

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