At the start of the year, Dearne Churches Together decided to make parables (stories) the focus of our fun days in 2023. So far, we have explored the theme of kindness (as seen in the Parable of the Good Samaritan), looked at the parable of the Lost Sheep and the Sower at Phoenix Park, and will be digging into more lost things (including a lost coin and a lost son) and exploring the idea of God welcoming us to a wedding banquet during the summer holidays. (Who doesn’t love a good party?!)
I’m fascinated by stories. Stories were Jesus’s primary method of teaching. Eugene Peterson says, “No matter how long we live, no matter how mature we beccome, we’re never removed from the basics. Children’s stories go over inch by inch the ground on which we spend the rest of our lives eating and sleeping, walking and running, playing and working, fighting and loving, cursing and blessing.” (‘Leap Over A Wall’, P 17) If we’re fortunate, stories are our way into understanding the world and ourselves, dealing with good and evil, jealousy, misfortune and hope. If we are fortunate, we rediscover stories as parents, using them to teach and inform our own children. If we are even more fortunate, we then get to tell them again to grandchildren and great-grandchildren,, learning something new and fresh ourselves as we watch children’s eyes light up in wonder as they discover them anew.
Telling stories is a fantastic way to interact with people. Authors re-tell familiar stories with exciting new twists (my grandchildren love ‘The Fairyale Hairdesser‘ series of books which focus on Kittie Lacey, ‘the best hairdresser in all of Fairyland’ to retell traditional tales). Films re-make classic stories in new ways. We never really outgrow stories and the lessons they contain.
Eugene Peteson reminds us that as we get older and grow taller, we are less aware of our ground, but still need the basics, whether that is ‘the material basics of air and water, earth and fire, the spiritual basics of trust and love, hope and mercy; the emotional basics of fear and joy, serenity and anxiety; the mental basics of asking and telling naming and numbering.’ (ibid., P 17)
We never get too old for stories. So take time this weekend to tell or read a story. Grab a book, open a Bible, visit the library, schedule a ‘story stop’ into your busy lives. Let the story percolate into your mind and heart: the young boy, David, bending down in a war-torn world to pick up five smooth stones from a river which will ultimately topple the giant, Goliath; the weary preacher, Jesus, stopping at a well for a drink and bringing salvation to a scorned and spurned woman; the fiery apostle, Paul, being diverted unexpectedly from his murderous plans by divine intervention on that road to Damascus. Stories are not a waste of time. They are water for our souls, and as every child knows, good stories can be heard again and again and again.