Monday, October 14, 2013

Don't Settle for an Uninspiring Story

Speaking truth to yourself is fine and good, but telling yourself a story that opens your heart, fires your imagination, and inspires a new way of seeing is far better. Don't settle for an uninspiring story.

Created in God's image, we are story tellers. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are composing narratives all the time. We can't help it because we bear the image of the divine story teller. The question is not are we making up stories, but how good and true are those stories?

We are tempted to defer to those who are gifted story tellers, creative types—poets, novelists, clowns. Certainly, there are some who are called to tell our collective story, to reveal truths that can only be told with the poetic imagination. But we put ourselves at risk if we forego the God given gift and responsibility of story telling.

First of all, we make sense of the confusing and often contradictory facts of life by placing them in the context of a story. If we are passive and fail to actively co-author our story with God, we are stuck with the meta-narrative that we received from our family of origin and the society within which we were formed. In fact, the better the story we tell, the closer we are to the truth. The truth I'm referring to here is not simple scientific facts, which can be stated outside the context of story, but the meaning and significance of one's life.

(The truth of God's presence and activity in history could not be told in simple propositional statements, tempted as we have been in our scientific age to reduce "the mysteries of the faith to objects of affirmation or negation when they ought to be the object of contemplation." (Weil) In scripture the truth is revealed in a myriad of metaphors, symbols, parables—some told, some lived. The power of the kingdom of heaven lies not in force, but in being an alternative to the story of empire.)

Secondly, we come to be known by the telling of our story. Which has the double benefit of saving us from loneliness and from self delusion. The more authentically we tell our story to those who have proven worthy to hold it, the more truly we are known—which is itself profoundly healing—and the less likely we are to have delusions about our motives and capacities.

Lastly, if we are to obey the primary commandment to love God with our whole heart, and our neighbor as ourselves—and not merely act as if we love—we must see ourselves inside the greater story of God, the good news of God's presence and activity in everything, especially God's image in our neighbor, who, as often as not, because of our poor vision, looks to us like "the least of these." My story in your story, your story in mine, our story inside the good news of God's story.

David Norling

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