The Unbelievable Beauty of God’s Story

By Ryan Sanders

The following is adapted from Ryan Sanders’s new book Unbelievable: Examining the Unlikely Beauty Of the Christian Story. It’s available on Amazon or at www.unbelievablebook.org.

My daughter Bethany is thirteen. It feels like she’s growing up very fast. Recently, she had a field trip to the local high school. After I dropped her off, she stood on the sidewalk surrounded by teenagers and gave me a waist-high secret wave as I drove away. She looked so tall, almost like she belonged there. The high school years are coming fast and it’s hard for daddy to believe. In fact, my wife and I say that often... 

“I can’t believe how big she’s getting!”  

“It’s hard to believe she’s about to finish middle school!”  

“Can you believe she’s wearing my shoes?" 

Of course we do believe it, because we’ve witnessed it. We’ve been there for every one of her thirteen years — almost every day of it — and yet we still say, “I can’t believe it!" 

I think Christian belief is like that. For someone who works, lives and worships close to the gargantuan claims of Christianity, it may be difficult to step back and see the summit. We are prone to wake up one day, look at the sheer magnitude of the claims Jesus made, and, like a parent, say, “Gosh, I can’t believe how big he is!"

C.S. Lewis wrote, “The value of myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by the ‘veil of familiarity’…As long as the story lingers in our minds, the real things are more themselves.”

I wrote Unbelievable in hopes of lifting the “veil of familiarity.” I hoped to offer a chance to revisit the most foundational tenets of our belief from a fresh perspective — a scenic overlook to faith.

Unbelievable is an opportunity to step back from the base of Christianity’s mountainous but familiar claims, squint our eyes, and try to take it in. My hope is that this new vantage point will give us a similar appreciation for Jesus and his religion. The appropriate response to a view of Mount Kilimanjaro is not denial but wonder; not doubt but worship. Such is the appropriate response to God’s story. When we examine the unlikely beauty of the stories in our Bibles, we are called to worship. We stand, hands empty, mouth agape, neck craned, and whisper a prayer of wonder. 

Sometimes it seems like we Christians want our neighbors to believe that our message is the most normal, natural, expected thing in the world. But it's not. In fact, it is precisely because the gospel is unexpected, supernatural and unlikely that it is most attractive. What if we stopped trying to make our faith smaller so that it’s easier to accept, and started making it bigger so that it’s harder to ignore? 

In a way, Christians are the UFO junkies of post-renaissance humanity. We are the fanatics, pointing to ancient Jewish writings and saying “See? Don’t you see?” in the same way toothless Appalachians point to blurry pictures of Sasquatch and half-drunk Scots retell second-hand stories about Nessy. Sure, we think our proof is more convincing than theirs, but we have to admit that our claims are no less outlandish. I say it’s time we do so. I say it’s time for Christians to line up alongside sidewalk preachers and conspiracy theorists and birthers and trekkies, and admit to skeptics that our story is every bit as far-fetched as theirs. And then to smile, and kneel, and wash their feet, and prove that it is true.

We Recommend Reading Next: