The Role of Stories in Life

peterson-wrk01.inddI’ve probably mentioned not a few times of my love for Eugene Peterson as a pastor-teacher. I can read and re-read any of Peterson’s work at any point. He’s simply one of my favorites. I recently decided to re-read Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology, which is part of Peterson’s “conversation” series. The book is based off the lines of a Gerald Manley Hopkins poem entitled As Kingfishers Catch Fire.

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.

I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

The thrust of Peterson’s book is literally what the title suggests – seeing Christ in “ten thousand places,” or through every avenue available to us. His face is there through the “features of men’s faces,” but are we willing to see? He particularly notes how Christ plays in ten thousand places through the avenues of creation, history, and community. In particular, I love these thoughts regarding story found in the opening pages:

Story is the most natural way of enlarging and deepening our sense of reality, and then enlisting us as participants in it. Stories open doors to areas or aspects of life that we didn’t know were there, or had quit noticing out of over-familiarity, or supposed were out-of-bounds to us. They then welcome us in. Stories are verbal acts of hospitality. (p13)

 

These words remind us of the unique role of stories. They remind us why we are drawn to such enchanting tales. And this is why we have a love for Twain or Lewis or Rowling and many others! But here is the kicker – Scripture is also story. I’m not saying the Bible is merely a fairy tale. But it is still story. This is because God is, himself, the grand storyteller. Remember, Scripture is not first and foremost a systematic text, nor an instruction manual for good behavior. It addresses such issues – but that comes within the context of a narrative, a specific narrative told through a specific people. Scripture is firstly a story. Let us remember story and the grand Storyteller. Stories are enchanting. Stories open doors. Stories welcome us in. Stories offer the hand of hospitality. Stories transform.

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