The Real Story

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Just a few months ago, most Americans couldn’t have located Ukraine on a map.
Even after saturation coverage of that nation’s plight since Russia’s invasion last February, few people are aware that Ukraine has been intermittently trampled by powerful neighbors from both the east and the west over the past two centuries.  Every recent generation of Ukrainians has been burdened with searing memories of pain and loss. 
That reality was on the mind of 24-year-old performance artist Kseniya Simonova when she entered the televised competition Ukraine’s Got Talent in 2009. 
Simonova excels at sand animation, an unusual artform in which sand is spread on the flat surface of a lightbox, then maneuvered by one’s hands into shapes that are projected onto a screen.  Sand animation is a unique way to tell a story. 
Kseniya was advised to present something happy and inspiring.  She had a different idea.  “I just want to bring some immortal sense to this show… something close to all hearts.”  Thus she created a sand story about a young Ukrainian couple who fall in love but are torn apart by the ravages of the Nazi invasion in World War II. 
Simonova not only won the competition, but her eight-and-a-half-minute performance has been viewed more than two million times on YouTube.  You can watch it here.
It’s easy to see why her ever-changing images, accompanied by sound effects and a heartrending song, evoked such deep emotions from the judges and audience members.  This wasn’t just a story.  This was their story – a memorial to the six million Ukrainians who died during World War II, and an evocation of the never-ending yearning that Ukrainian children might one day experience lives of peace and security. 
People sometimes describe the Bible as a happy and inspiring book – something akin to a fairy tale that floats above the real world. 
This is fairly strong evidence that such people have never actually read the Bible.
The pages of scripture never flinch from reporting the raw details of human history.  The real story of the real world is marked by disillusionment, loss, and tears.
But behind the painful details there is a larger Story, one with an upper case “S.” It is the good Story that is being orchestrated by a good and gracious God.  And it will end not as the cosmologists predict – with the Big Crunch or the Big Chill or the Big Rip, as astronomer Neil DeGrasse Tyson suggested just last week – but with Big Grace, a redeemed reality in which “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” will finally come true. 
Kseniya Simonova ends her sand performance with three enigmatic words: You Always Near. 
She seems to be saying that even in the midst of the worst that the world can throw at us, our nearness to each other can see us through. 
Followers of Jesus cling to a stronger promise:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Because He is always near, we can see beyond this world’s tears to the Story that will one day redeem everything.