Why We Tell Stories

We are storytellers. That's what we do. That's what we were made to do.

And each year, around this time, I'm reminded that the the story that I'm made to tell, the one that echoes in every cavern of my life, is also the greatest story the world has ever known. In the next few days, all around the world, we get to tell the story of Easter. At ROCKHARBOR we get to tell that story in unique ways, ways that stretch us, exhaust us, and revive us all at the same time.

As storytellers, we are remarkably blessed to do what we do, to be entrusted with this story. The honor of it is exhilarating and humbling.

But sometimes I forget. Amidst the pace, the panic, and the pressure I too easily forget.

Telling stories is hard work. And telling stories well is very hard work. In the middle of the process we sometimes lose the scent of the purpose we're chasing and, occasionally, forget that it's a privilege. For this reason, it's important to hold onto certain moments we've witnessed as we've told stories, those moments that have reminded us that what we do is so much bigger than us.

As I sat on the stage yesterday in the dark and the cold of a late-night rehearsal I was reminded of one of these moments. It took place a little less than a year ago, just a few weeks after Easter.

That morning the whole family sat at the breakfast table. I'd made bad coffee and failed pancakes, and I was frustrated. One of those metaphorical dark and stormy cloud loomed over my head. Then Finnden, our then-two-year-old son, looked at Karen and I and said, “I want to watch Daddy's words.” (“Daddy's words” is what he called the creative storytelling piece from last year because it featured a spoken word I performed.)

He'd seen it twice on Easter morning. The first time he'd watched it he'd sat silently, taking it all in, but as he saw it again during the second service Karen said he was very scared when “sin” appeared. There was something he'd intrinsically understood.

Since then, Karen told me that he'd asked to see the video of the performance at least a dozen times, but he usually asked while I was at work, thus I'd never had the chance to observe him as he watched.

He was entranced by what he saw, his eyes scanning the screen. But what was even more amazing was what he would say. From time to time he would quote a line along with the video or he would narrate a portion, talking to no one in particular. When dancers who represented the fall of humankind entered the scene he said with a frown, “Bad sin come now.”

But a moment later he smiled and said, “Jesus come.”

When the story talked about Jesus' death he shook his finger at the screen and said, “Jesus not done.”

And a few moments later, when Jesus rose from the dead, he exclaimed, “Sin go away!”

“People happy. Sin not hurting them!”

And finally, lifting his hands in the air, he shouted “I am new!”

The dark cloud above me disappeared, and in a sudden rush of emotion I realized my two-year-old son had, in his own way, just articulated the gospel. We had set out to tell the most meaningful story in the world to thousands of people, and one of the people who had heard it was my son.

That is one of those moments that I hold onto when, in the midst of the process, I lose sight of the purpose and the privilege of being a storyteller. We all need moments like these, and when we receive these gifts of grace, these stories, we must remember them, treasure them, and tell them.