Once upon a time…
Do you remember those English lessons where you were told to write a story? The default setting was ‘once upon a time’, because that’s how stories begin. It was either that or, ‘It was a dark and stormy night…’ if you wanted something a bit more dramatic.
Did you ever have to write about your weekend? Or, even worse, your summer holiday? You had to desperately think of something exciting. I’m often tempted to make things up for Big Boy’s home-school book. A trip to the moon … Or meeting the Queen. Anything exciting would do. It would be great to have an exciting story to tell.
Most people like stories. Writing them can be a trial, if you’re not into that sort of thing, but listening to them is great. A good story is able to influence your thoughts and your feelings. It should help you picture things in your head. It might even help you to change your mind about something or someone. Take Charles Dickens as a fine example. He wrote stories to bring change. His campaigning didn’t just involve going on strike, sending a letter to Downing Street, shouting louder than his opponents, or giving people lectures on the evils of his day. He wrote stories. He weaved truth into tales that enabled people to see what otherwise might have stayed hidden. He created lives and stories that didn’t just entertain; they educated and they moved people to change.
A story for us all
The Bible often does the same thing. It’s not just a list of rules, it’s a story. The real people and real lives that it tells us about are stories that give a glimpse into realities we otherwise might miss.
David and Goliath isn’t just about the little guy beating the bully; it tells us a story of how one young person, dedicated to God, can make a difference to a nation. Though David shows staggering courage, he is not, in many ways, an extraordinary boy, he’s simply a boy who relies on an extraordinary God.
Sticking with David for a minute, do you remember what the prophet Nathan does to show David his sin with Bathsheeba? He tells him a story. It’s a story of a wealthy man who selfishishly takes the only sheep of a poor man to slaughter for a feast. Then Nathan hits David with the truth – ‘you are that man’. Another story that reveals truth.
Or how about Hosea? For Hosea, it was a grim reality, for us, a story. Hosea is told to take a prostitute for his wife. She runs off, back to a life of prostitution, and Hosea is told to take her back again. Why? It’s a story to show God’s people what they’re like. They are the prostitute who turns away from one who is committed to them, one who has made a covenant to stay with them. Like them, we turn away from God. It’s also a story to show God’s people what He is like. Despite our unfaithfulness, He is faithful. Hosea’s story is our story.
And that’s the crux of the Bible. It is a story of God and His people. It is a story of resolute, steadfast love flying in the face of betrayal, desertion and disobedience. It is a story of a God who reveals Himself to be not just creator, but loving parent. Not simply one who hands down a punishment for our disobedience, but one who then steps down into our world and takes that punishment for us.
The Bible is a story of a God without match or rival. It is the story of a God who put Himself through hell to rescue us. It is a story about God. It is a story about me.
What is your all-time favourite story? Why?
Do you remember being changed in your thinking by a story?