I love the stories in the Bible.The narrative of the Word of God that contains the beautiful truths about God.
Theology, wrapped in story.
Real stories, about real people, about a real God, who engages with a real world. Who transforms, everything.
Stories that make my heart skip a beat with the sheer amount of realness and miracles and love and revelation-about-the-wonder-of-God in them.
And the thing with stories is that you have to read the whole thing. You have to get to the end before you understand the main point or the big picture. Sometimes God shows up in the final act. Sometimes there’s a twist you’re not expecting. Sometimes you need to see the overarching narrative to really get what’s going on.
If you dip in half way through, you get the wrong picture, or you don’t see the full picture, or you miss something of what God is saying.
It’s like if you stop reading Joseph’s story when he is in the depths of prison, and never get to the rescue of a God who wanted to lift him to a place of influence in the nation. Or if you stop reading when Rahab is described as a prostitute of Jericho, and never get to the place where she is grafted into the lineage of Jesus. Or if you stop reading when Elijah is sitting in the desert praying that he will die in his hopeless, powerless state, and never get to the God-taking-him-to-heaven-in-a-chariot-of-fire moment.
I could go on for a long time. Because the Bible is full to the brim of stories. And the full story is important.
The story shows us the character of God.
The God of grace and love and redemption and second chances. The God who calls us to Him and not away from Him. The God who enables us to change by His Holy Spirit. The God of all comfort. The God who is so wonderfully incredible in every single possible way.
I was in Glasgow today, and on the drive back I was talking with a wonderful friend and colleague about some of the humorous moments we have shared at work over the last few years.
We were talking about the stories.
The stories of change and transformation in our young people. The stories that have made us laugh and cry and be moved.
There are so, so many.
And we were remembering an introductionary-ice-breaker-exercise that we often run with young people, and the pretty-funny-stories that follow it. Because we often get a large group of young people to push themselves out of their comfort zones by greeting each other using well known methods from countries around the world. It uses a few stereotypes but that’s the point. We get young people to shake hands like the English. Easy. Then we get them to ‘high-five’ like in the USA. Really easy. Then we move onto bowing like the Japanese. Everyone is with us. We might do a few greetings that involve slapping someone on the back or doing the peace sign. These are all well-in-the-comfort-zone. Then we suggest they touch noses like Eskimos. Now, we’re getting a few weird looks. Some people don’t want to go there. Finally, and as the ultimate ending, we challenge them to fake-kiss each other on both cheeks like the French. Now, some of the guys are running out the room with awkwardness, screaming and crying… Haha. Not really. But that one definitely pushes people way out of what is comfortable.
It’s a really fun ice breaker. It’s good for showing young people that in all times, in all places, there are things that make us uncomfortable. It’s lets them know that it’s ok to feel like that. It helps us to introduce the idea of comfort zones and taking risks in an easy way. It’s a good learning experience.
When you see the big picture. And the full story.
If you don’t… You might miss the point.
Like when we had a big audit to gather some young people’s feedback on our programmes. Which was going really, really well… Until one of the inspectors asked a young man we worked with to describe the greatest learning experience he’d had whilst on training with us… And this young man thought hard, and he considered everything we had supported him to do, and he mentally went through all the fun stuff he had covered in his induction… And confidently (but without really thinking through the articulation), he replied, ‘Well, I think the best thing that these guys have helped me to do was to push me out of my comfort zone… Like when they taught me how to french kiss…’
That was his exact wording.
Not really an accurate snapshot of the story! Because our introductary-ice-breaker doesn’t actually teach people how to french kiss… Unless I’m really missing something!
Hahaha! I’m so glad I was there to intervene and explain before the shocked-white-look on the auditors face went into the serious-sounding notes of his report.
The full story is important.
In every situation.
And this is why I love the Word of God. The full Word of God. The Old Testament. The New Testament. Not just reading-one-verse-in-the-middle-of-a-passage, but reading the story. The context. The narrative. Getting into the realness of Scripture. The application. The fullness. The hope. The wisdom. The guidance. I love it. Because it reveals the God I love.
What you say goes, God, and stays, as permanent as the heavens.
Your truth never goes out of fashion; it’s as up-to-date as the earth when the sun comes up.
Your Word and truth are dependable as ever; that’s what you ordered – you set the earth going.
If your revelation hadn’t delighted me so, I would have given up when the hard times came.
But I’ll never forget the advice you gave me; you saved my life with those wise words.
Save me! I’m all yours.
I look high and low for your words of wisdom.
The wicked lie in ambush to destroy me, but I’m only concerned with your plans for me.
I see the limits to everything human, but the horizons can’t contain your commands.