Finding your place in the story is important

October 9, 2018

He started taking walks through the dense forest with his young son where the air was fresh, the skies were filled with billowing clouds, and both their imaginations were ignited. Walks in the woods with your son lends itself to making up stories. The father had moved his family to the English countryside and the Ashdown Forest. The boy would bring along his stuffed animals and the stories would begin.

One of the stuffed toys — a bear — would come to say “For I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me.” The son at first called him Edward the Bear. But after seeing a real bear in the London Zoo named Winnipeg he decided to name his bear “Winnie.”

You know the boy as Christopher Robin, the bear as Winnie the Pooh, Ashdown Forest as the 100 Acre Wood, and the father as the author AA Milne. These stories helped a tired and weary British society move past the horrors of World War I.

And these stories have helped many parents bond with their children ever since. The bond created by reading stories that begin with characters that are merely stuffed toys but by the time parent and child are caught up in them they had become real: they talked, they had adventures, they taught lessons.

That’s what stories do. And that’s why we like stories. Just say “let me tell you a story” and bodies lean in, eyes look your way, and ears block out other noises. It’s happened to you, hasn’t it? When someone lectures the language processing parts of our brain are activated.

But when someone tells a story not only are the language processing parts of our brain activated, so are any other area in our brain that we would use when experiencing the events of the story. Taste. Sound. Motion. The storyteller is reliving the events. And research says so are the listeners.

We love stories. In fact, more than 80 percent of the world’s population are oral learners. So if you love stories, that means you’re in the majority.

The problem is an estimated 90 percent of the world’s Christian workers present the gospel — which we received in story form about the life of Christ — using literate communication styles. Think bullet points. Think lecture. Think … but not using the majority of your brain.

We need to tell stories. Researchers believe that 70 percent or more of the people in North America prefer non-literate means of communication. People prefer stories.

Apparently, so does God. Not stories in the sense of a tale that is not true. But story in the sense that he used writers who shaped the past to teach something about the present situation they found themselves in.

When we read stories, or narratives, found in the Bible, we need to understand how they were written, when they were written, and for what purpose they were written. If we don’t, we will ask questions of the text or story that it was not written to answer.

Instead, when we learn to let the story do its work we will find ourselves in the story. We will hear what the character heard, feel what the character felt, smell what the character smelled. And once inside the story we will discover things about God that we may have missed before. We may even discover some things about ourselves.

So even if you have left Winnie the Pooh behind, don’t leave the biblical stories behind. They are your stories and mine. The human story.


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