Back in my social worker days, I met a man who lived out in the country. He was almost 90 and though he couldn’t read or write and signed his name with an “X”, he was by no means unintelligent. He taught me about nature and animals, a little about Voodoo, and a lot about life. I would take my Bassett Hound, Buttercup, to see him when she was just a puppy and he would look at her ears and get her to track smells and tell me what a fine dog she was going to be. And he would tell me stories—all kinds of stories, some I wanted to hear again and again and others that were heart-breaking and I hated hearing even the first time. I thought he shared those stories because he was examining his life and needed someone to talk to, but what I found out was that he shared those stories because he was the last of his family and he wanted to pass on the wisdom he had acquired over the years.
I gained a lot of wisdom from the stories he shared. I think about a lot of those stories when I am facing challenges or don’t understand life—not because they have the answers, but because a good life filled with stories to share is the answer. That’s what the scriptures are really about. They are not perfect, and a lot of times they bring up more questions than answers, but they tell the story of God and God’s work in this world. They tell the story of faithful and not so faithful responses of God’s people so that they might pass on a little bit of the wisdom they acquired over the years. We hear the stories and we tell them to others—to our children to teach them about God, to one another when a situation calls a story to mind.
The stories of Scripture are important and they give us direction and encouragement; hope in the promise that all manner of things shall be well. Sometimes they teach us what it means to be righteous, or remind us that we are not in this alone—God is with us. But always they tell us about God. That’s the important aspect we almost always forget. Too often we read scripture from a narcissistic point-of-view, what Mike Jarrell likes to call “I/me” thinkin’. We think the Bible was written for us and about us. We read passages in scripture and decide that is God telling me something. We judge the words of Jesus based on how we think he should act or what we think he should say. We do that to each other too. We listen to one another’s stories and try to influence their outcome based on our desires and wants, not the other’s needs.
We are ego-centric people. How much different does the world look if we can begin to take a God-centric approach? How different is our understanding of scripture if instead of always asking what Scripture is trying to say to us, we asked what the scripture is saying about God? How different do our own stories become when we live them, in order to tell what God is doing in the world, rather than what we are doing in the world?
My story-telling friend is dead now, but he lives on in his stories and the way those stories have influenced me and all the other people with whom he shared his stories. His stories are the Good News worked out over the course of his life, and shared with me and many others over the course of ours. That is what the stories of Scripture are all about—the sharing of the Good News, the sharing of God. Tell your stories. The Bible doesn’t end on the last page of the Book of Revelation; it is a living Word that continues throughout time in the stories we share.