At bedtime in my family of daughters, I heard more “Read me a story” than “Tell me a story.” Now that they’re adults, the clamor has evolved to “Write me a story,” but the urge is still prompted by our storytelling gene.
Recently, I attended three days of seminars in a fabulous online writers’ retreat. What a blessing to receive encouragement and instruction, inspiration and empowerment, in the art and craft of storytelling from fellow Christians with a similar calling.
“If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” –Toni Morrison
It reminded me of the set of journals I kept some years ago about my life in an alternate universe. Yes, very much a fantasy, commenced in the spirit of “What would you do if…?” with a daughter equally possessed of the storytelling gene.
What do you do when life feels overwhelming? Where do you turn when worry gnaws, despair lurks, and sighs heave from the depths of your being? Of course, we lean into the Lord. We find friends. And some of us seek stories.
Stories as Wish Fulfillment
Not all stories are created equal, though. Some leave us more disenchanted than before. Some instill hope. And which would you say comes closer to life?
Many people view all fiction as wish fulfillment. Pipe dreams for people out of touch with the traumas and trials of reality. Illusory bubbles, beautiful but imaginary baubles. Bury your head in the sand while the planet goes to pot. “Sure, you’re going to marry the billionaire, mutate into a superhero, or magically win a trip to Mars. Just not in this lifetime.”
Not all our stories will turn out well. Few lives enjoy genuinely happy endings. No Prince Charming is going to show up to rescue us from the enemy of evil (whether we conceive that as the boss, the bills, or the latest beastly bacteria). We don’t stand remotely in line to inherit a fortune, far less a kingdom.
And it’s true–none of our dreams can deliver. The degrees and diversions, the possessions and positions, the marches and makeovers—will never heal us or heap us with unending happiness. Even Jesus doesn’t make things perfect here and now.
But He will. Oh, He will.
That mighty truth shines stranger, wilder, and more wonderful than any fiction. We cannot ignore the hope that lies behind every fantastic wish. My storytelling gene activates at the scriptural point where the Apostle Peter pleads, “Always be prepared to give an answer…for the hope that you have” (I Pe. 3:15, NIV).
Get ready, he says. Prepare your reasonable response. Why do you believe that pie-in-the-sky? Take a deep breath, grab a pen, and tell the story of hope in Jesus.
Droplet Gift #32: Let’s influence our world by planting seeds of godly HOPE.
Stories as Cultural Communication
Look past the pandemic, the political and theological debates, the sporting contests, the social controversies. When trouble brews, serve a side dish of hope. When everything in the world seems wrong, turn right. If you feel broken, let Jesus and His words soothe and heal.
Nobody’s communicating much hope to our culture these days. It’s time to share, scribble, sing about our compelling reason for hope. Sure, the resolution hasn’t happened yet, but God’s day is coming.
“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.” –Toni Morrison
In Destiny at Dolphin Bay, the main character, Melissa, is roped into becoming the local storyteller for a group of young earthquake victims. At 15, she has little experience, definitely no formal training in oratory. Yet she has the storytelling gene and instinctively senses the flow of a classic story.
Every day over a long winter, Melissa sets a story table with grace. The Bible themes she chooses transform pain to peace and oppression to justice. She sows hope in the hearts of the fatherless and the needy.
The biblical epic connects with all good stories in the essential elements of:
- A devastating problem or a deep desire, leading to…
- An extremely difficult challenge or quest with numerous hardships
- And high stakes—a life-or-death mission—but because of…
- The worthy cause, the hero makes…
- The ultimate sacrifice.
That’s the plot of our favorite stories, and it’s the basic plot of God’s story too. An authentic storyteller makes a connection with the hearer/reader and applies the balm of hope to the harsh disillusionments of life.
Stories as Christ Bearers
Called to wear the image of God and carry His message in a weary world, we love to tell the story of Jesus again and again. Because as Melissa finally acknowledges, “those who know it best seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.”
My storytelling gene means I love to tell stories. And I love to tell THE story best.
“I used to want to fix people, but now I just want to be with them.” –Bob Goff, Love Does
Our pastor in Nova Scotia once remarked, “By now you will have learned that I’m not that great a preacher. I just like telling stories.” The truth is, he possesses a speaking gift and a storytelling gene. Both bring to blazing life the truths and practical hope of our faith.
I’m with Pastor. I’m with Mr. Goff. I used to want to preach to the world, but now I just want to tell stories. The story of Jesus, over and over. In a million words and ways, in a thousand chapters and a hundred droplet gifts.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” –Maya Angelou
What story from your life would you share to give hope to the world? Which crazy story from your “secret” journal would you like to tell? What KINDS of stories/books would you like to read more of? Please, I’d love to hear your feedback. If you didn’t inherit the storytelling gene, maybe you’ll catch the storytelling bug. “Write me a story…”
Lord, don’t take me home…till I’ve shared my hope with the world.