SStories have been around for as long as storytellers have had the ability to engage an audience to get lost in the tale they are spinning. Our imagination plays a great part in the process of listening to a story. When I was a kid, before TV, I listened every Saturday evening to several radio dramas like The Shadow. You could hear the voices, the footsteps, the music, but you had to imagine what the people looked like and what the set looked like as they were playing out this drama. It made for a lively Saturday evening. It seems to me that TV simply spoiled the opportunity to imagine. Watching TV causes us to visually see what someone else imagined and then we take their imagination as reality for the drama being presented. Some believe that storytelling might be the most fundamental way that humans communicate. It just may well be that storytelling is the oldest human communication.
Stories are powerful. Alister McGrath tells a story in his book Christian Spirituality:
Stories are about finding one’s identity, and learning the story of one’s own people. This point was brought home to me particularly clearly back in 1990, when I heard an American professor of literature describe how he discovered the importance of learning one’s story. This professor, who taught at a leading university in Southern California, was a Kiowa (KAI a wa) Indian, a Native American from the Oklahoma region. He told how he learned the story of his people when he was still a young boy. One day, just after dawn, his father woke him, and took him to the home of an elderly squaw. He left him there, promising to return to collect him that afternoon.
All that day, the squaw told this young boy the story of the Kiowa people. She told him of their origins by the Yellowstone River, and how they then migrated southward. She told him of the many hardships they faced—the wars with other Indian nations and the great blizzards of the winter plains. She told him of the glories of the life of the Kiowa nation—of the great buffalo hunts, the taming of wild horses, and the great skill of the braves as riders. Finally, she told him of the coming of the white man. She told him about the humiliation of their once-proud nation at the hands of the white soldiers, who forced them to move south to Kansas, where they faced starvation and poverty. Her story ended as she told him of their final humiliating confinement within a reservation in Oklahoma.
Shortly before dark his father returned to collect him. His words on leaving the home of the squaw remains firmly planted in my mind. “When I left that house, I was Kiowa.” He had learned the story of his people, to which he was heir. He knew what his people had been through. Before he had learned that story, he had been a Kiowa in name only: now he was a Kiowa in reality.[ref]Alister McGrath. Christian Spirituality: An Introduction, 119-120.)[/ref]
Could it be that when a follower of Jesus hears and understands HIStory, he or she will no longer be a Christian in name only, but will be a Christian in reality, one who lives his or her life in community for the sake of the world? HIStory is a captivating Story, one that is bigger than our small “soap operas” that we so often live in day-to-day. The classic definition of a story: a narrative with a beginning, middle, and an ending that follows the main character through his or her struggle(s) to achieve a certain goal.