My husband is a great teller of stories. If you don’t believe me, ask our grandchildren. He has several stories he has told to each of them over time that were truly of his imagination and he told them so well that when they were very young, they thought they had actually occurred. I chuckle as I recall how engaged they were with the story as they listened and asked questions.
The favorite of them all was about a winter when he spent time on his own with the Eskimos. Oh, the adventures he had! He seemed to never tire of creating new little details in response to their questions. Another of the stories that was a favorite of our oldest granddaughter was more of a dramatic play called “Save Princess”. In the story he played both the role of the villain and the role of the hero who came to save her just in the nick of time.
A good storyteller knows that a story is not just reporting a sequence of events, but rather the telling of meaningful and often extraordinary actions of the characters in the story that take place over a period of time. Some people say it requires a certain craft or skill. That is likely true, but I think it is most of all a gift.
I think my husband has that gift even though he would insist he is not good with words. I think it is a gift because he sees into the character of the people in the stories. The actions in the story flow through them. He managed to get our grandchildren caught up in the story of his life with the Eskimos one winter through the development of his character, what he did, how he felt, and how he responded to the challenges and adversities of the long, bitter, cold winter.
Stories help us to make sense out of our present experiences as well as those of the past while giving us glimpses of possibilities for ourselves for the future. My husband’s experiences as a Boy Scout and his boyhood exploits served as grist for the stories he told as well as how to become an effective problem-solver throughout his lifetime. I doubt our grandchildren will forget these stories because of the memories they created of not only the story, but also the man who told it.
The stories we choose to listen to are significant. Each character we meet, each adventure we explore, provides a certain challenge to us and may well change us in some ways we may never even see or recognize.
Wayne Booth has put it this way:
“The stories we choose to spend our lives with are a reflection of our values and, therefore, our character.”
I think that points to why it is so important that we not allow ourselves to get caught up in small stories. Small stories never seem to reflect good characters or characters of good quality, but rather take us down a yellow brick road away from truth, virtue, and light for the path ahead. Our minds and hearts get caught up in shadow and deception instead of light.
I love what Daniel Taylor says in Tell Me A Story:
“We will be defined, as individuals and as a society, by the stories we choose to live and by those we value enough to pass on to the next generation. This is perhaps our ultimate responsibility as characters acting freely. What stories will we tell our children and why? What stories will they choose to tell in turn?”
Of all the great and gifted storytellers, likely the stories that have stood the longest test of time have been those that Jesus told and left for us during His life on earth. Generation after generation they have been passed on. The characters in the story never fail to point to or show us something about themselves that allow us to learn something about ourselves as well. They challenge us to be better than we would be without them. They inspire us and show us the way to go.
Jesus undoubtedly knew the power of stories. He used them often when He was teaching or just hanging out with His friends/disciples. He knew they would be remembered and that remembrance would show us Him long after He returned to His Father.
He wanted us to remember. He knew our stories were and would be broken stories that would potentially discourage and defeat us. He came to heal the brokenness of our stories and did so through giving us another story, His story.
As I heard a pastor say:
“The world says we are defined by our past, but God’s focus is on the future and who we will be.”
That gives us hope and His stories are the ones we should remember and live out.