“Stories are verbal acts of hospitality” – Eugene Peterson

People crave story – so much so that it’s impossible to imagine life apart from story. Storytelling has always held a prominent place among humans. Our compulsion to write and tell stories, to read and hear them, points to this ongoing fascination we have with them. What is it about story that captivates us? What draws us into story?

Stories have this way of inviting us in, don’t they? They grab our attention by making us feel at home. Good stories open the world to us. They evoke powerful emotions within us, giving us new insight into what it means to be human. They also aid us in seeing the common ground we share with others. Good storytelling is really an expression of good hospitality. It’s a vital way we make ourselves at home, and help others do the same. But even more profoundly, we respond to story because story is our common language. We relate to the language of story because, well, life is story.

Each of our lives is a mini-narrative. There’s a story behind every person you encounter, a story behind you and me. As storied beings we’re always on the look-out for some narrative to live by. The advertising world knows this well. Think of how commercials feed our hunger to live in story. They offer us what seems like an unlimited number of stories, promising to fulfill us (yes, even save us) whenever we enter these stories to live by them. What they offer is usually a variation of the Amerian dream story: buy this or that, and you’ll have the security, comfort, and fulfillment you always wanted. We fall for this story all the time, don’t we? Is the most recent cell phone or iPod really all that fulfilling? I guess it depends on the songs you have on that iPod, huh? Your iPod probaby isn’t nearly as fulfilling as mine! Consider how the political process confronts us. We’re invited to step into the Democrat or Republican Story, with the assumption being that our dreams will be realized if only we enable the right story to be written. It’s inescapable; wherever we look we’re bombarded with invitations to live in a story.

The Bible also invites us into a story. A majority of the Bible is narrative. This narrative tells the story of God’s renovation project for a world that has gone wrong. It’s a project that focuses on Jesus Christ. The biblical story claims to be the grand or ultimate story – the story that makes sense of all other stories. In fact, this story puts our fascination with story into context. We’re captivated by story because each of us is actually part of a big story whose author is God. In other words, life is story. We’re invited to participate in this story, joining God in His mission to make all things new. This story invites us into something much larger than our own personal drama’s, the American dream, or whatever small story some political party holds out to us. God’s story offers us something worth throwing ourselves into with full abandonment.

We can’t miss the authoritative claim this story makes. It insists that it is the best story to live by. The ancient people of God were called to live in step with God’s story in order to show the watching world that this story was true and worthwhile. Likewise, the early church lived out God’s story in provocative ways, demonstrating that competing stories (like the story told by the Roman Empire) weren’t nearly as compelling. The Bible claims that to settle for another story is to settle for something less – for something that dimimishes us. All other stories will shatter our dreams and leave us empty. Are we willing to give up these dead-end stories in order to get caught up in the story God is writing in the world. Is the story of God intersecting with the story of your life? What story are you living by anyway?

The conversation continues…

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