Why Story Matters (A Mustard Seed Musing)

Originally published through the blog connected to Context with Lorna Dueck: Life Beyond the Headlines in Canada.

Why does ‘story’ matter? Why does what we watch on television, venture to the movies, or crack open a book matter? What difference can a story make to our lives in the here and now, and for all eternity?

At its most basic, story is the narrative that drives action, even depicts inaction. Story shows the choices that are made, the causes and effects, the consequences and the aftermath. Story is the lifeblood to our lives, whether it is lived out or observed, told over a cup of coffee or read about via Facebook. Communicating stories connects us to each other, across space and time, in ways we may never fully grasp because they move something in us internally, spiritually.

When you view story from a religious standpoint, specifically a Judeo-Christian one, the depth of “story’s” influence grows exponentially. “In the beginning” is as crucial to storytelling as “happily ever after,” because it shows us where we came from regardless of whether it is interpreted literally or metaphorically. From this auspicious and Spirit-invoked start, Jews and Christians are ushered into the story as they are “made in the image of God,” experiencing the highs of conquest and the lows of sin. It is this narrative passed on orally, generation to generation, that forms the core of the Old Testament scriptures.

As the story grows, we meet those who try, faithfully or not, to follow the directions of God who draws them into the story. Finally, but not in conclusion, we meet the person Jesus, “the word made flesh,” who proceeds to live out a life narrative mixed with teaching (by way of metaphors or parables) and instructing his followers that they are part of the narrative that God has been working in human history… since “in the beginning.” It is a narrative interweaving God’s mighty acts in history, but it is also a reminder of the truth of the simplest Christian message: “for God so loved the world.” All of this culminates in the ultimate narrative coda: the self-sacrificing Christ figure who dies innocently (a semi-colon that would seem to be a period) but who rises again (the ultimate “but…” followed by an exclamation point)! But this is not the end of the story: it’s our introduction into it ourselves.

This overarching story sets up a ripple effect of responses to the story, arching out from the core belief that God is a loving Creator who has a positive future in mind. We acknowledge through the process that there is evil, and that things are not right, so that tension occurs between the now and the not yet; we see that while evil (and we have evil laid out in its supernatural and humanity-driven ways in this narrative) may win the day, it has already lost eternally. This is why I can tell my children that the “good guys win in the end” because even when they are losing, and even in stories that end poorly for the heroes, that is not how the “Story” ends.

It is why we gravitate toward Star Wars and superheroes, why we find ourselves seeking out the stories from playing fields where athletes bench competitiveness for compassion, why we seek out opportunities for heroism and sacrifice because we want to be a redeeming and redeemed part of the Story. The story of God in our hearts, reflecting our being made in God’s image, draws us like a magnet from ourselves toward stories both real and imagined that make us part of the Story. They make us believe we could be more because we’ve been called, inspired, loved, redeemed, and challenged to make that Story, or the Story’s kingdom, here upon the earth.

“In the beginning…”

“For God so loved the world…”

“Thy kingdom come…”

The Story welcomes us in.

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About Jacob Sahms

I'm searching for hope in the midst of the storms, raising a family, pastoring a church, writing on faith and film, rooting for the Red Sox, and sleeping occasionally. Find me at ChristianCinema.com, Cinapse.co, and the brand new ScreenFish.net.
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