We Are Made of Stories
Some years ago, I got the chance to have dinner and chat with the Congressman, who represented my district in the U.S. House of Representatives.
I was kind of skeptical about meeting him at first because I was diametrically opposed to most of his stances on a variety of social issues. But he was not at all what I expected.
To begin with, I quickly learned that I had more than a few points of agreement with him on a surprising number of things. Sure, he held some views that I disagreed with, but there was also a lot of common ground.
And then he told us about his efforts to build bridges between an increasingly divided Congress.
Every month he would hold a dinner at his house in Washington, DC and he would invite members of Congress from both political parties. Democrats and Republicans would gather to eat at his house, with only one standing rule: No one could talk politics.
Instead, they had to tell their stories. They had to share the stories of where they came from, what mattered to them in life, their hobbies and passions... stories of their family and their hopes and dreams.
The Congressman told us that his hope for these dinners was that members of Congress who appeared to be hopelessly divided on many issues, would begin to see each other as real people, and perhaps even friends.
I've been thinking about that conversation a lot lately--especially the storytelling aspect of it. You see, I think that if we began to truly value the importance of storytelling, our divided and fractured culture might find healing.
I recently read a wonderful quote by Michael Gungor:
We are made of stories, and those stories are inherently generative. We are music making music. We are spotlights, wandering through infinity, shining our awareness here and there, discovering and creating order with our imaginations.I love that first line, don't you? "We are made of stories, and those stories are inherently generative." Which simply means, our stories have the power to create meaning, connection and even healing and peace.
It's our stories as opposed to our opinions that can break down barriers, build bridges, uncover common ground and so much more. It's our stories that will come to our rescue when we decide that it's more important to make a connection than make a point.
I often think about how Jesus used storytelling to teach. How the Apostles would tell and re-tell the stories of their time with Christ, their experience of the resurrection.
They weren't spouting off about all the deep theological understanding they'd achieved. They weren't peppering their conversations with their tightly held opinions about God the universe and everything. They told their stories.
And by telling their stories, they also were able to tell the story--the story of how God became one of us to rescue all of us... how God is for us... how we are loved and cherished beyond our wildest dreams... how God wants us to live full, beautiful and eternal lives, both now and forever.
So tell your stories. Use them to create and build. Let them loose into the world to grow and flower the common ground that exists between all of us.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.