Monday, November 07, 2005

My story, and The Story

I was a storyteller before I was a Christian. One of the wonderful resources I found in Jesus for A New Generation by Kevin Ford was the idea of narrative evangelism - in his words, "finding the place where your story and The Greatest Story Ever Told intersect."

My story intersects The Story in so many places. I am Adam, wanting to blame someone else for getting his ass booted from the Garden. I am Moses, doubting if God is really big enough to pull this whole Exodus thing off. I am David, coveting beauty and indulging in lust enough to kill someone to make it happen. I am Peter, falling into the sea that the Son of God had helped me walk on. And I am still Peter, being summoned to Galilee by special angelic invitation.

There is not only the risk of the failure of "heroes," but the absolute certainty of it. In fact, it is more likely that children of earth will identify with the muck-ups rather than the Joshua's of the Bible. But even in Joshua's story, it's not the story of them marching and blowing trumpets - but of Joshua saying, "God says THIS, and that's what we're going to do," and then God acting.

Every part of my broken relationships, my broken trusts, my failures of faith and hope are mirrored in Scripture. I identify with so many of the psalms - especially 13 and 137 and the rest of the lament psalms. They make perfect sense to me.

Harold Washington, Old Testament Professor at St. Paul School of Theology, once told us that the story of the OT was that of a loving father and a flock of stubborn, disobedient and willful children who seemed to know nothing so well as how to end up in "time-out." No matter how many times the children were punished, no matter how many times they seemed irredeemable, a loving Parent left the door open for restoration.

Ralph Klein, OT professor at LSTC, pointed out that it wasn't Moses' staff that parted the Red Sea. But Moses had to be willing to do his part - and then God stepped in and did God's part.

I'll admit, that is much more accurate in the grand-sweep of the OT than in the specifics of individual episodes of death, plague, pestilence, etc. There's plenty of individual places in the OT (as one friend in recovery used to say) where Yahweh could easily get confused with someone crossed between Genghis Khan and Santa Claus - someone who hated my guts, but was willing to make a deal for good behavior.

And trust me - looking at stories like the Moses/Exodus epic, it seemed that it was not "Yahweh or my way," but more like "Yahweh AND the highway."

But there is also a danger in reducing Scripture to story, or myth. There are many powerful myths that parallel story-lines in Scripture - but there is a difference in the longevity of the myths versus the power of Scriptural story. There has to be some Divine radium in the pitchblende in order for that kind of endurance to occur.

Last thought (for now, anyway) - CS Lewis, in The Great Divorce, spoke of the idea that the choice for heaven or hell would be retrospective in nature. A tragedy which one endured, and ultimately grew in faith from could lead one to choose Heaven - and then all the person's life would be seen, in retrospect, to have been leading toward Heaven...even the tragedy.

By the same token, if one gave up on God as a result of the same tragedy, it could lead one to Hell - and the person's life would then be seen as one unending slide toward perdition. One person would say, "I have always been in Heaven," the other "I have always been in Hell," and they would both be right. It's an interesting concept.


Michael said...

I love the point from The Great Divorce -- love the whole book, actually. From the perspective of my life today, when I look back, it has all been in heaven, even the parts that hurt, because it was all in the presence of a loving and merciful God.

ContemplativeThoughts said...

That reminds me of when I was the Ephesians class team lead at my former church. I had a co-teacher that made the statement that Scripture is not finished (that disturbed me), our stories have to be added to it. Of course my mind led me to Rev. 22:18-19. I understand that the warning applies in context to that particular book, but I really don't think that we need to be adding or omitting anything when it comes to the entire Scriptures. When I read your post, I thought again about what the instructor said and in a sense she was right. The Bible itself is complete, but our stories don't need to be added to it...they're already in it. We are reflected, as you said, in Moses, Gideon, Samson, Rahab, Joseph, Abraham, David, Solomon, Peter, James, John, Judas...if we would just take a minute and allow the Scriptures to show us that. Thanks for the post, you just enhanced my reading and studies.

Natala said...

thanks for your writing... i've been thinking a lot on what you put into words...
thank you

ScottB said...

I still am fascinated by the movie Hook, the Peter Pan escapade with Robin Williams as a grown up and amnesiac Pan. There's a great moment towards the beginning where an elderly Wendy is trying to convince Peter of who he really is. "The stories are true, Peter," she says, meaning all the tales of his own adventures that he's forgotten. And then, of course, the rest of the movie is about his struggle to believe in his own story.

I think that's what approaching scripture as story does for me - it's about coming to grips with the startling revelation that the stories, in fact, are true - that what they say about me, about us, about creation and about the Creator is, in fact, both true and beautiful all at once. It's a story where we find ourselves, and it's all the more powerful for the fact that it's not simply a story, but in fact it's the Story.

Excellent thoughts!

Nick said...

In the Brothers Karamozov, Dostoevsky portrays hell not as place where people are tortured by satan and his minions, but rather as a place where people burn in the fire of their own wrath for for all eternity. "Resentment is the number one offender."

I think the OT is full of stories where natural evil is attributed to a vindictive God. It is just hard to accept that natural evil exists.

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