"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Importance of Stories

"God's revelation of himself is story. The Bible is not primarily doctrines. It's mostly the stories of people who have known God. Jesus used stories a lot of the time."

Stories bring the truth home. Remember David being confronted by Nathan about his sin with Bathsheba?

1 The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, "There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

4 "Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him."

5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, "As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity."

7 Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man!

(for more see II Samuel 12)

Stories have power. They touch us at many levels. Not only our cognitions, but also our sensations and emotions are kindled. Stories are specific. We smell scents, we hear sounds, we feel textures. We are drawn to characters or repulsed by them.

Stories meet our need to be actively involved in learning through discovery. Stories poke us with surprises. "Important truths must be expressed through symbols," says Justin Oforo of Tanzania. "If an idea is stated plainly we don't take it seriously." If a speaker doesn't care enough to package his or her idea attractively, it must not be important, people feel. But when a speaker draws on the resource bank of a people's own symbols, it shows that he or she cares. (pg. 150-151)

If this last line is true, then for sure, Jesus cared! The Gospels are full of stories (parables) He shared using local symbols that the people would understand.

Many women will learn God's message through stories. "What an empowering message. Here is a great cloud of witnesses. Here are role models, both positive and negative. Certainly these biblical characters sinned. Yet they found God real and relevant not just in their holy moods but also in their failures. How this comforts a woman. Like David in the Psalms, she may doubt. Like Jeremiah, she may despair. Like Esther, she may be confronted with overwhelming odds. Like Hagar, she may be rejected. Remembering these spiritual foremothers and fathers when she is surrounded by troubles outside and sins inside, she is reminded that nothing can separate her from the love of God." (pg. 155)

Are stories important to you or do you just like the cold, hard facts? Do you agree that presenting facts through stories or symbols is a way to show people that you care? What is a story that has especially touched your life by speaking to a need in your life or challenging you to think a certain way? Have you ever used stories to teach a lesson or make a point?

Quotes from Daughters of Islam by Miriam Adeney


Wafa' said...

i think stories are important and useful when they are personal, cuz you can not advice me or help me by telling me a story you read or heard which may or may not be true. but when the stories are personal or you know the people that have a story and you are an honest person then yes it's going to be helpful.
i don't remember hearing a particularl story that touched me cuz there are many that do.
and yes sometimes i do tell personal stories to someone who need some lift in his/her life and that may be helful.
thank you for the lovely post susanne :)

Wrestling With Religion said...

I think stories *are* really effective, aren't they? They really get the message across in a powerful way.
I found that story that Nathan told to David very moving, actually.

Suroor said...

I love stories and think they are very important. I love that about the Bible. Definitely.

Susanne said...

Wafa', thanks for sharing how personal stories are of help to you...and how you use some of your own to encourage others! I'm sure your sharing is very helpful in letting others know they are not alone in their struggles.

WWR, yes, quite effective. I guess this is why so many of our childhood fables had morals. If they just told us the moral, oh that's great. But building a story around them to teach them really drives them home!

Suroor, glad you agree on the importance of stories.

I've often found the story from Luke 15 - the prodigal son - to be very touching.

Thank you all for your comments!

Sanil Atarah Rivka said...

We've been talking about this in class, too. :) I'm not really a story-telling person, but I like to read and analyze stories. It drove me crazy in preaching class that my professor always wanted me to invent stories to get my point across. I'm not creative enough to do that, I'm more the exegesis type. And also, the Bible IS stories. I read Scripture before I interpret it, why do they need ANOTHER story? :) But other people in the class did say the extra stories helped them, so I guess there's something to it.

Susanne said...

Sanil, haaaa...you are so funny! Yeah, I'm not always good at stories, but I freely use Jesus' and other Bible stories. :) I didn't realize you had to have stories to explain the Bible stories - ahhhh, that does take some creativity! Thanks for chiming in on this topic! Always a pleasure hearing your POV. :)