13 December 2016

Living wisely as storytellers

We are a storied people. Humans love to hear stories and tell stories. Even before we could speak, our parents read stories to us. We reinforced them by gazing attentively at their faces. As we grew and we began to read, we absorbed the stories that others put down on paper. We began to tell our own stories to people and to listen to the stories that others told about themselves. We are in the practice of living into an ever developing narrative.

But stories are not always happy. In fact, wise storytellers recognize that good stories include tragedy and tension. Difficulties and hardship are true elements in good storytelling because they mirror the realities of life under the sun. Anyone who has lived enough life recognizes that personal narratives contain difficult elements.

Yet so often in our longing for redemption, we try to craft our own stories in such a way that we come out as the hero. When evil enters the story, we edit the script. We set ourselves as victims of an oppressive enterprise. We create scapegoats and villains to become the source of all suffering, and particularly our own suffering. In the end, we draft stories--fictions actually--wherein we are the survivors, Righteous crusaders against the tyranny of family, friends, or institutions that have oppressed us.

In the middle of our storytelling, we believe that our own words are pristine and true. If there is any falsehood, it comes not from us, but from those we cast as villains. Then we workshop our stories to others, believing most strongly those who affirm us and discounting out of hand those with hard criticisms. A primary reason for this tendency is that the human capacity for self-deception is remarkably deep-seated. We become willing to sacrifice others for the sake of remaining the hero in the white hat.

But listen--in a world of oft-competing narratives and inconsistent stories, God alone is true. Romans 3:4 says that even if everyone else is a liar, God is true. We each find ourselves in the midst of His story, not the other way around. Christ alone is the hero, not us.  Christ alone is the only one who is immune from the remarkably virulent self-deception that plagues all of us affected by sin.

Thankfully, as image bearers whom God has included in His story, He has shown us the way to live in His word. He is not interested in us advancing our own shaping fictions, but in His story being told well. In His word, He has consistently shown us the goodness, truth, and beauty of His Son, the most remarkable story ever told.

Yet He has also given us practical advice on how we should live and relate. He tells us about the importance of living in community even when we disagree or when it is hard, so that we can begin to understand what is true--of ourselves, of others, and of God. He tells us that it is essential not simply to accept as true one person's narrative without also considering  another's (Proverbs 18:17). He hints that it is in a community of storytellers where we begin to get at truth (Proverbs 15:22).

If we choose to live into any story other than God's story, we are following a dangerous fiction. If we choose to relate in a self-centered way just to maintain the false "truth" of our narrative rather than in a way that seeks relational wholeness and redeemed community, God's word calls us a fool (Proverbs 12:15)

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