Parents, teachers, friends: Lend me your ears! I have something to say to you.
Life with God is like someone in the army waking up at Reveille and getting dressed for morning formation. Collecting themselves, they meet their fellow soldiers at the formation area and prepare to receive the day’s orders. Their captain stands before them and says, “Once upon a time…”
With apologies to NT Wright for the basic structure of the parable above, I believe it accurately reflects an important, and over-looked, aspect of Christian living.
When God wants us to understand who He is and how He acts, he gave us the story of His life with Israel. When Jesus wants his followers to understand what he’s doing and their role within his work, he gave them stories.
Propositional truth is important — please don’t hear me downgrading its importance. But it is also cold, sterile, and forbidding — have you ever tried to sweeten coffee with a spoon? It has its role in the sweetening process, but by itself it changes nothing. Likewise, Satan and his followers can honestly affirm every single piece of propositional truth about God — all they do is make them tremble.
Narrative truth, along with incarnated truth, are warm, gritty, inviting, and most important of all: demanding and transformative. Narrative truth gets in your head and begins to realign your worldview while you aren’t looking. Satan can’t honestly say, “God is my Rock. God is my Shepherd. God is my Father.” Those statements, by their nature, draw speaker and object into a relationship.
Christians have got to start raising up storytellers.
Parents, don’t just read to your kids. Encourage them to tell YOU stories. Don’t worry about getting them to write them down; that may or may not come later. When you ask them about their day, or how they feel, or what they are thinking, find a way to ask them to tell you a story. Don’t just let them read books. Get them to tell you stories about those books. And don’t edit their stories! If they tell a story that needs tweaking, tweak it by telling them a story back.
Teachers, understand that Jesus is the most brilliant person who ever lived, and he taught by story to a people and a world raised on storytelling. He wasn’t just a brilliant storyteller because he was God — he was a brilliant storyteller because he grew up hearing stories. Don’t break down the stories you teach from Scripture. Let your lessons be shaped by the stories themselves, so that the story soaks into your class and begins to subvert their unhealthy ways of thinking and operating.
Friends: stop sitting dully in front of the TV or the movie screen. I LOVE cinema — it is one of the greatest inventions ever (although the ease with which it allows the poison of pornography to be distributed and mainlined makes it a terrible and great invention all at once). But when someone sits down near you at the coffee shop and you start talking about life and reality and hope, you can’t put them on hold for a month while you produce a short film to answer their questions. Take time in your little communities — family, small group, friends, etc. — and practice telling stories.
Eugene Peterson writes, “The impatience to leave the methods of Jesus in order to get the work of Jesus done is what destroys spirituality, because we’re using a non-Biblical, non-Jesus way to do what Jesus did.”
Story-telling is challenging.
Story-telling is messy.
Story-telling is imprecise.
But maybe, just maybe Jesus was on to something about how we operate.
Start telling stories today!
in HIS love,