God made humanity because God loves stories.
Hebrew Midrash as told by Elie Wiesel
There have been two metaphors that have shaped my life and ministry: story and journey. It is not by mistake that I found myself at Yale Divinity School for seminary, a place where the sweep of the canonical narrative was taken very seriously. Nor is it surprising that the metaphor of journey has shaped my understanding of spiritual formation given the movement of God’s people since the beginning of time. To be sure, we always have a starting point. But, if we are to journey with Jesus to touch the world, we must also claim our own story.
When our daughter Elizabeth was little, she would daily press her father and me to tell her a story. Not just any story, but her story. This request often came at bedtime. But it also came at the dinner table and while on long drives. To this day, telling stories is one of our favorite family activities.
We tell of how we long awaited and anticipated her birth. We share in detail the day she was born (nine days late on my birthday) when Drs. Jose and Maria, father and daughter, fought over who got to deliver her. The father won! We describe the snowstorm that blanketed New York and Connecticut on the weekend of her baptism. We report how people came from near and far, in spite of the snow, to celebrate her birth and participate in her baptism. We talk about God’s call to make the journey our home, a journey that has taken us from Connecticut and New York to Pittsburgh, San Diego, and now Ohio.
Not only does Elizabeth love to hear the stories of her life, but those of her parents, her grandparents, her aunts and uncles and cousins. For in the telling, she knows that she belongs. She knows that she is loved and a part of something greater than herself.
But as precious as those stories are, they cannot be fully understood apart from knowing the story of God’s love for her and for all creation. As John the Baptist reminds us: “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life (John 3:16, The Message).
This is the story that informs her—and our—story. It is the story that gives her life meaning and purpose and direction. This is the story that helps her make sense of life’s complexity and challenge. By this story, she knows that her core identity rests in Christ alone. She knows that as she walks in his path, her character will reflect the fruit of the Spirit.
As psychologist Daniel Siegel notes, the “sharing of stories reflects the central importance of narratives in creating coherence in human life and connecting our minds to each other. Stories are passed from one generation to another and help keep the human soul alive” (The Developing Mind). We are a storied people. As the old Hebrew Midrash tells us: God made us because God loves stories.
What are the stories that have shaped you and made you who you are today? What narrative cycles in scripture best inform your understanding of who and whose you are in Christ? How will these narratives guide your journey?
Practice: Know Your Story
Now, with God’s help, I shall become myself. Søren Kierkegaard
There is an old saying: “You are what you eat.” The same is true of memory: we are what we remember. The stories of our life and faith provide the bridge between who we are and who God is calling us to become. If we are to grow up into maturity in Christ, we need to know our story—born out of the intersection of our life’s journey and God’s Word to us. It is that that, with God’s help, we shall become ourselves.
In preparation for our time together on Sunday, take time to remember who and whose you are. Set aside some time to gather with those you love and share the stories that make you who you are. And then share THE Story! Read through the narratives of Jesus’ birth found in Luke 1-2 and Matthew 1-2... and give thanks!
A Prayer for the Journey
Inhabit my heart, O God, as you have inhabited human flesh.
Be here among us with all of your wisdom, all of your power,
all of your mercy, all of your love,
that we might learn to be like you from Jesus who came to be like us.
Holy are you. Holy are we who are called to become like Jesus. Amen.
—Miriam Therese Winter (adapted)
A bit about me...