We were made to tell stories. Literally, I believe we were made, created, to tell stories. Not just stories of exciting fishing exclusions when we caught a larger than life bass. Not just about the time the cop let you off of the ticket because you cried. Not even about the time you won the big game, the time you proposed, or the time your first child was born. We were created to tell bigger stories. It’s a problem to me that in our culture today, in the early third millennium, that we are loosing our ability to tell big stories. With the daily increased use of texting and social media, the art of story telling is fading as a priori of communication.
When I say “telling stories,” I don’t mean fanciful tales, which hold little or no fact. I actually believe that those aren’t big stories. No I believe telling stories is about communicating heritage, love, loss, conflict, resolution, and above all, Truth. The best stories are not only compelling, but true. You know even if you read a mediocre book or see a less than compelling movie, your review of the story is always bettered when you hear it as “based on true events.” I love the Batman stories, but the story is only a fantasy. Something I can imagine but not live. Conversely, movies like The Blind Side, and Moneyball, are talked about nor only for their compelling storyline, but for the truth of that compelling storyline.
And yet we have lost our ability. You can’t get much emotion out of a text. Sure you can place something IN ALL CAPS! but does that mean anger or excitement? We have removed body language too. The physical ability to tell a great story has been severed by a million different ways to more “easily” relay information. We have lost the art of telling great stories.
Two-thousand years of years ago it was not like this. Well before the masses could read and write, only a select few scribes and learned individuals had the ability to decipher the written word. Religious leaders and philosophers would spend their lives memorizing sacred texts to communicate them to the people. They were forced to tell stories. They couldn’t show their audience something in compelling graphics or hand out pamphlets to follow along. They also knew that their audience would not have the ability to take notes. It was up to them to find a compelling way to tell the story they were telling, whether it be about the creation of the world, about the Roman conquest, or simply conveying current events.
Head back farther in history and you reach a time with even less “technology.” The chances of access to scripts and texts let alone read them is almost non-existent. And so, it was up to generation after generation to tell stories.
Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean information was any less true, it just means they had different ways that they viewed the importance and truth of information. Meaning, history, heritage, destiny, were all wrapped up in one story.
We are called to tell great stories. Although we have lost the art, that does not mean is permanently unreachable. Donald Miller, in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, talks about making and telling great stories. Miller offers the insight that we all want to live a great story, most of us just aren’t. The reason movies and books like Harry Potter aren’t just popular because they are creative (they really are awesome) they are popular because they offer us better stories than the ones we are living.
I remember growing up seeing my friends parents come home from work all of the time. The dad or mom would come home, rest at the dinner table, ask the kids how the day was, and get ready for tomorrow. I reflect now that although they provided for their families, they didn’t offer their families anything more. They didn’t offer them a story that they were living. We wake up, we go to work, we come home, we go to bed, we repeat, then we die.
What I love about Scripture is that God has written a story for us to tell, the greatest story ever told. It is a story of power, and royalty, and love, and violence, and rebellion, and triumph, and mystery, and magic. The Ancestors of our ancestors knew this. They told their story to their children and their children’s children. It wasn’t some boring Sunday school class, focused on memorizing facts and figures. It was compelling story of the past, the future, and the significance every single person.
God has written us a story, and he has written you a story. Not a story of monotony, of capitalism, of 2.5 kids and a dog. God has written you a story of love, of greatness. God has written the love of the universe into the very fabric of your being. And he is calling you. He is calling to tell his story, by living your story.
Today we find ourselves fighting against a culture that, because culture doesn’t understand the importance of a good story, wants to qualify our story in their proper categories: fiction, non-fiction, biography, history, etc.
We get so caught up in quantifying and qualifying story that we miss it. We don’t tell it. God calls us to tell great stories, and in that calling, he desires for us to live a great story. He has written you a story that is the best possible story that you can live with your life. What would happen if the people of God regained the ability to tell God’s story, and more so, continued to write God’s story with their own? I wonder if a movement known for boredom, conservatism, rules, and judgment could begin to be known for what it really is… a telling of the greatest story ever written, of the destiny of the universe, of the radical love that is bound to transform all of creation.
We read in the story of God, the chronicle of God’s love for the world, of person after person who meets is living a bad story, who God calls to live a great story, and who decides to either choose to tell a great story, or remain silent. God calls you to tell his story, and continue it by writing your own, but it is simply a call, it is up to you to do the telling.