Stories brighten a day much like the sun’s rays in winter when frost performs its magic on the windows inside, and it’s freezing cold outside.
What would life be like without stories? Well, TV would limp badly on one leg! Dictionaries would be best sellers. Forget about novels and all those wonderful children’s books. Communication would be simply black and white. Where would be the colors that shape emotions?
Mission work is full of stories. One night (in Turkey), Paul once spoke too long. He told stories about what happened in Greece. At about 4:00 in the morning, Eutychus gave up listening. He fell asleep … and slipped out the window! From three stories up! But Paul was sure the young man wasn’t dead… Well, that’s the rest of the story! It’s all found in Acts 20:7-12, and I always referred to it in Troas, an important archaeological site, on my tourist trips in Turkey.
Why stories? Well, think of our communication patterns. I see my neighbor and greet him. It’s the same every day. “Hello, Ali,” I say. He responds, “I’m fine; how are you?” That’s level-one talk.
Many moons ago, I was a high-school teacher. I listened at the lunch table. “Hey, did you guys see the hockey game last night? Now, I can’t wait for the playoffs!” The level-two talk touches on common interests. Like an iceberg, topics melt away quickly. The following season arrives. Then, interactions are about a ski-doo race. Or football. Or baseball.
Education goes deeper, but not as deep as values. Level three communication makes a huge difference, like waves slapping against an iceberg. We learn about things from anthropology to zoology. But does a professor need to expose something about her personal life? Not really. Much level-three messaging is about skills and knowledge. Level-three understanding profoundly affects our lives, but much is impersonal. It’s not about values.
All that changes with stories. Level-four interactions make you feel like you’re swimming in an ocean. 90% of an iceberg lies beneath the ocean’s waves. Values make you want to examine things from many angles. You want to share in an experience.
Take the story of the Samaritan woman. If we only had Jesus’ words in John 4:23, 24, we would know the truth about worship. Of course! The Father is searching for those who will worship in spirit and truth.
But when we hear the woman talking, and when we engage with her background, wrestling with her about what authentic worship is… wow! This nameless woman comes alive, so to speak. We go back to her story repeatedly. It has a beginning, an ending, and a wealth of content. We love the contours and colors of her story. It sparks devotion in us. Raw emotions emerge. Why does it offer us multiple challenges? Something in our life throbs, much like the bass strings on a fiddle in an orchestra. Does another story about worship in the scriptures speak to us so profoundly?
Oh, I hope that all of us tell stories. Do what Jesus did. Wasn’t he the most remarkable storyteller? Be a good storyteller. Yes, stories matter.