The Gift of Story (Newsletter Article)

Dear Friends,

         Our preparations for VBS reminded me of a story a friend of mine told me some 20 years ago. My friend’s then-second-grade girl sat in the back seat of a car on a bright autumn afternoon, surrounded by her mom, grandmother, and aunt. The child chattered on about Sunday school. Then she stopped and said, “You know, I just want to get more things about God into my head.”

         Through a little gentle prodding, the adults learned that the girl wanted more stories about God in her head.

         “That’s great!” said the grandmother, feeding the fire. “And you know what else is neat? When you read a Bible story one time, say when you’re young, or happy, or upset, it means one thing to you. And when you read it again later, it can mean something completely different to you. That’s how God’s Word is still so alive for me after all these years.”

         “That’s right,” said the girl’s mother. “Maybe that’s part of why there are so many different denominations and so many different ways people worship and talk about God. We’ve all read the same stories, but with different stuff in our heads, different thoughts and concerns.”

         “Hmm,” said the girl. “And then when we die we find out the real truth.”

         Falling off a child’s tongue “the real truth” has a happy, cozy ring to it. Yet can become a seductive mire for those who believe that they have actually found it.

         I find it liberating to be reminded that the “real truth” is something that none of us can get fully into our heads just yet. For now, the touchstone of truth is story, those wonderful creations of images and actions, characters and relationships, all brought together through human words to reveal some piece of the “real truth.” And while stories do get into our heads, even more do they get into our hearts, working their magic even when we aren’t thinking about them.

         Our tradition holds that God chose a people (Israel) and a son (Jesus of Nazareth) through whom to be revealed. And perhaps this is so because God, a person, is best mediated through story, not through policies, procedures, and doctrines.

         So, if we ever think we know God, if we ever decide that we have the “real truth” stowed away in our heads, may the story of one little girl’s spiritual curiosity renew our own eagerness to listen and grow. May her story re-call us into the storied quest for meaning and hope that we call the Christian faith.

                                                                        Peace,

                                                                                  Allen

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