We Need Story
Of course Jesus was a storyteller. He is the one who created us for story. He knew we would need stories to pass down his wisdom from generation to generation. He knew we would need stories to build depth of relationship in community. He knew we would need stories to make sense of this broken world.
We want to hear stories. The story of a sleep-deprived mom who accidentally brushes her teeth with Neosporin instead of toothpaste makes us feel normal. The story of the divorcee who finds true love while serving at Summit gives hope. The story of a turbulent adoption that ends happily-ever-after provides comfort. We want to tell stories. It’s rewarding to teach someone something. It’s validating to know someone is listening. We are called to go and make disciples of all nations, and we can’t do that without the story.
British literary scholar, author, and poet, Barbara Hardy, wrote, “We dream in narrative, daydream in narrative, remember, anticipate, hope, despair, believe, doubt, plan, revise, criticize, construct, gossip, learn, hate and love by narrative.” Without it, we cannot live fully-expressed.
Narrative works on a psychological and physiological level to get us to pay attention. Paul J. Zak, professor of economics, psychology, and management at Claremont Graduate University, found that character-driven stories cause us to produce oxytocin—a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in bonding, empathy, and generosity. This is not an accident. God knew we would need this if we were to understand the tiniest sliver of who he is and how much he loves us.
Stories illustrate how a series of events interact with each other—which is what makes the sum of the events meaningful. Without story we can’t put the pieces of the Jesus puzzle together. Without story there’s no way to grasp the severity of our sin and the depth of God’s love. It’s only in the exile from Eden, the crucifixion of a perfect savior, the miraculous resurrection, and every event in between that we start to understand.
We want and need story, but so many of us believe we don’t have a story. We tell ourselves we aren’t storytellers or that our stories aren’t good enough. On some blackboard somewhere someone told us we need an introduction, a conflict, a climax, a denouement, and a resolution. When our own story doesn’t follow the formula, we figure we don’t have one. While the story formula is tidy, real life is not so conclusive.
Real life is messy. It’s full of gray areas and incomplete information. Sometimes we get the resolution—we get the job, or the baby, or the peace and redemption— and the world makes sense again. But sometimes we lose the job or the baby; we can’t find the peace or redemption, and the world makes no sense at all. When the story is indeterminate, it’s hard to see what God is doing in our lives. This is why we need each other.
You may not look at the mess in your life and see a story, but someone else sees the grace of God all over it. You may believe your lifelong relationship with Jesus is unremarkable, but somewhere a fearful mother needs your story to raise her daughter to have a lifelong relationship with Jesus. You may think talking about yourself is self-indulgent, but somewhere there’s a writer, a videographer, or a follower of Jesus who needs your story to help tell the bigger story.
Have you ever noticed that Jesus didn’t tell his own story? He told parables of rich rulers, prodigal sons, lost sheep, and mustard seeds, but God used other people to tell the story of Jesus’ life. The authors of the Gospels are the ones who tell the story of the baby in the manger and the 12-year-old who stayed behind at the temple. They are the ones who tell the tales of the last supper, Judas’ betrayal, and Peter’s denial of Christ. Storytelling was and is a collaborative effort.
The pages of Summit Magazine, the videos, and every other way we tell stories here reflect the image of Jesus. Created in God’s image, we too are storytellers. Whether you’re telling a story or just living in yours, you’re part of the collaboration.
The latest issue of the Summit Magazine is out now! Expect it in your mailbox or grab a copy in a Summit Lobby near you.
Laura Diaz has been attending Summit for a couple years now and is the CEO and Senior Strategist at Kiss Me Creative. She serves as a writer on our Media Team and volunteers in Student Ministries, leading a Connect group of soon-to-be 10th grade girls. She enjoys long sips of coffee and short lines at Starbucks.