Wednesday, April 10, 2019
Stories that Heal
After twenty years of preaching ministry, I am finally beginning to see the healing value in the telling of a well crafted story.
Not too long ago, I was trying to explain to someone the need for churches to stand up for people who are oppressed - particularly by bullies. So, I told this story...
When I was about 12 years old, and in Junior High, I was at the gym one day with my Dad. I was a very scrawny kid when I was younger, so the weights I was lifting on that particular day, were not very heavy. In the same corner of the gym where I was curling 20 pound dumbbells, was a very muscled out, dare I say steroid infused, body builder. When he saw me lifting the small weights, he sort of started to make fun of me, belittling the amount of weight that I was lifting. Though I didn't care too much about the taunts at the time, when my father saw what was going on, he was incensed. Walking up to the 250 pound body builder, the Rev. Dr. Donald Baird (in good shape, but no body builder) said, "That is my son that you are picking on. If you have something to say, then say it to me." The body builder, taking my dad up on his offer, said, "Sure, let's scuffle, old man." At that point, my dad and I high tailed it out of the gym together. Though we didn't "win the fight that day," these many 30 plus years later, I will never forget how my father, risking his own safety, stood up for me, his son.
The moral to the story? Sometimes bigger people need to stand up for oppressed people, even if they won't win the fight. Sometimes churches need to stand up to bullies.
As I have told that story to a few people, I have begun to see a HEALING light go be turned on in their hearts and minds. The telling of the story, and the framing of an idea within a narrative space, gives the subject matter deeper meaning.
A lot of great leaders through history have used the power of stories to win people towards their ideas. Abraham Lincoln was famous for story telling as a political medium. Often Lincoln's stories took the shape of a joke. Sometimes they were more like metaphors. Once, when told that a particular senator was not voting the way he wanted him to, about the end of the Civil War, Lincoln said; [I am paraphrasing], "There's more than one way to get a horse to move. You can try to pull him by the bit, or you can put a horse fly on his back side. The horsefly often gets better results."
Jesus told most of his deepest truths through stories (parables). Jesus was the sort of person, who, if you came to him with a problem, he would tell a story. When asked about what heaven looks like, Jesus told story after story starting with the line, "The kingdom of heaven is like...a mustard seed." When asked about justice, Jesus told a story about a widow, who came to a judge day in and day out. When asked about who we should love, Jesus told a story about a man who was beaten up on a distant and rural road.
So, for example, if Jesus were on the earth today, and you asked him about the immigrant crisis, and whether we should care for children, he would most likely answer in this way, "There once was a farmer who had lots of field hands. Some of the field hands came from the north, some lived locally, and some came from the south. The field hands from the south were the hardest working, but nobody cared for them...." (or something like that - of course, I am not Jesus, so my story telling ability is not up to the messiah's).
If you have a problem you are working through, or you are in the middle of a tough issue, or you are in the middle of a debate in a work place setting, try telling a story. You just might find that stories have the greatest capacity to heal.
All For now,