Tell me a story
My son is now a young man, living on his own in Asheville. When he was a little boy he made the same request every night when I put him to bed, “Dad, tell me a story.” He would often modify it, saying, “Tell me a story about when you were a boy.” One of his favorite types of stories was when I would weave into an otherwise truthful account, one thing that was not true. After I told the story, he would then have to tell me which part he thought was false. Sometimes it was obvious, but most of the time what he considered the fabrication was in fact true. It was a fun way for him to learn more about me, and my life growing up.
Why do we like stories? Why do stories move our hearts much more easily than facts and figures? What is it about story that resonates deep within us? We write books on the subject. We organize conferences, helping participants to tell better stories with their lives. We created a career field of life coach, assisting others in structuring, navigating and making meaning of their personal stories.
Is this a product of our current preoccupation with finding some significance in our otherwise mundane or hectic daily existence? Is this a luxury reserved for those who have resources to devote to personal development?
No, story goes much deeper. For centuries, in cultures all around the world, history was conveyed through oral tradition, through stories. How do we account for this universal appeal of story? It is because we are living in a story, a great story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.
How does the Bible start? “I am your God. I am holy. You will relate to me by following this set of regulations.” No. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” You could almost paraphrase it as, “Once upon a time . . .”
It is a story. But here’s the thing about this story. It is not just an over-arching narrative to give meaning to our lives. It is like the stories I used to tell my son. It is a personal story. God is creating a remarkable story, and it is all about relationship with him.
Robert Benson says, “Deep within each of us is the urge to know and to be known. When we were given the capacity to love, to speak, to decide, to dream, to hope and create and suffer, we were also given the longing to be known by the One who most wants to be completely known.”
Judith Thurman tells us “every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.”
We are all homesick for that place where we will be perfectly known by God, who is love. That is the end of the story. But the beauty of this story is that we can enter into that knowing and being known right here in the middle. Jesus came among us as one of us to make this great story personal. It is all about having a relationship with him. All of us are characters in the great story of God’s love!