i am a story hoping to unfold
as my future meets
i am a tale waiting to be told
with the right words, now,
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.
—the apostle John describing the birth of his friend Jesus
(John 1:14 Message)
There’s a Jewish saying: “God created man because he loves stories.” I think that has a lot of truth to it. But not only does God love stories, he loves the people whose stories are being told moment by moment across the globe. And I’m amazed that the story of my choices, mistakes, regrets —the story of my life—actually matters to God.
I think what makes us unique isn’t so much our height or shape or fingerprints or eye color but our histories, our stories. Day by day our lives are woven into a giant narrative, and every moment we become more and more the story of who we are. We are our stories. And we only connect with other people when we know their stories. The more intimate we are, the more our stories intertwine. That’s one reason divorce is so painful—because it rips a single, deeply threaded story apart into two.
Sometimes I think about all the billions of stories swirling around each other on this planet, touching, deepening, unfurling, unraveling. And each one of those stories, each one of those people, mattered so much to the Author of Life that he left heaven and began the dreadful trek to the cross (see John 3:16). The original script called for unity and harmony, but our first parents chose to derail the story of humanity into a graveyard.
“Okay,” said the Creator. “Then I’ll tell a new story. One that includes a detour through an empty tomb.” But to make that tale come true, he had to enter our story himself.
When Jesus was born, the Word of God became flesh, enmeshed in a story. The storyteller entered the tale. The author stepped onto the page. The poet whose very words had written the cosmos became part of the text of this world.
Like the harmony and the melody living together in the same song, Jesus was divinity and humanity living together in the same heart. He was the Word of God, God’s story, in the flesh.
i went looking for you.
first, i searched through the tomes of church history, the volumes of philosophy, and the writings of the great and holy men . . . but you were not in the books.
then i walked the hills and listened to the creek and learned the ways of the stars and the seasons . . . but you were not in the wilds. then i looked inside myself and my own knowings, to my will and my reason and my mind’s discernment . . . but you were not in my heart.
then i met a man who told me who i was and who whispered to my spirit the truths of my soul and told me stories that echoed with the longings of my heart. and you were in his stories.
then i saw that you had been in the books and the forests all along. for at last you were in my heart.
When Jesus came to earth he brought along the folktales of heaven. He didn’t lecture like a professor but told fables like a bard, weaving tales of another world into the fabric of human lives.
He told stories because he knew humans are rarely interested in truth unless it’s wrapped up in a story. He taught through stories, used stories to explain himself to his detractors, and helped people with eternal hungers get a foretaste of heaven through his parables. In fact, for a period of time, storytelling was the only way he taught: “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable” (Matthew 13:34 NIV).
Most of his stories were metaphors of heaven. He described the kingdom of heaven in terms of shepherds who would risk their lives for their sheep, women who can’t find enough excuses to celebrate with their girlfriends, and fathers who party till dawn with their wayward sons.
In his stories, kingdom dwellers aren’t just monks or mystics, priests or clerics, but jewelers, treasure hunters, bridesmaids, fishermen, farmers, business executives, outcasts, widows, prostitutes, and thieves.
And I love how irreverent Jesus is in his stories. He compared himself to a chicken, the coming of God’s kingdom to a robber breaking into your house, God’s message of hope to an uncorked bottle of wine, and prayer to a nagging neighbor hungry for a sandwich at midnight.
According to Jesus, we can learn about God’s kingdom from eccentric landowners, dishonest managers, idiots who build condos on quicksand, demon possessed do-gooders, a warm loaf of bread, a field full of weeds, and a little kid tugging at your pants leg asking you to come outside and play. The kingdom of heaven unfurled from his lips in story after story after story.
you untangle the mysteries,
you whisper forth the parables,
you live within the fairy world
and light up the real world
with your tragic magic and your
heart full of blood.
When Christianity becomes something other than entering into and living out the story of God, it becomes something other than Christianity. God’s story isn’t over; it’s still being told today. Each one of us has the potential to become both a chapter of history and his story.
Yet with each story Jesus told, the religious leaders became more and more aware that this troublesome rabbi was using his parables to teach lessons they didn’t like. When he finished one especially pointed tale, they’d had enough: “The Jewish leaders wanted to arrest him for using this illustration because they realized he was pointing at them—they were the wicked farmers in his story. But they were afraid to touch him because of the crowds. So they left him and went away” (Mark 12:12).
But they didn’t stay away. The people Jesus had come to enlighten began to plot ways to silence heaven’s storyteller forever.
touching the unseen
ah, sweet storyteller
what will it take to slay the dragon
and rescue your future bride?
in your hands straw becomes gold,
rags become linen,
and thorns become roses—
dew-covered, scarlet, and fragrant forever.
speak your tale into my heart
so that my life might finally make sense.