We talk to ourselves constantly and tell ourselves stories about what has happened and what will happen. This morning it was overcast and dull and depressing and rain was predicted for later and I was already telling myself that I wouldn’t be able to go into the garden. And I didn’t. Yesterday it was colder, but bright and sunny and I told myself that I’d be out there and getting a list of jobs done. I did get out there into the front garden, but a friend going past stopped to talk. I ended up clearing leaves in the twilight with few jobs done. And that was OK. It was good to connect – but I didn’t fulfil my story.
Things rarely follow our internal script and turn out the way our story predicts. Life and other people intervene. The stories of past events can also alter and shift with time and reflection. Our stories also come up against other people’s stories. We may listen to theirs, be interested, discuss and empathise, or we may just ignore. Other people’s stories may help us to understand something better, or to question our own assumptions and standpoint.
We live our lives through stories – our own and other people’s. We read stories in books and newspapers. We hear them on the radio and see them on television. We pass them on through social media. They help us to find and confirm our place in the world. They may challenge us or confirm who we think we are. They have an effect on our mood, our motivation and our state of mind. As master storyteller Ben Okri says, “Stories can conquer fear…They can make the heart bigger.”
At their best, stories contribute to our understanding, our growth and our relationships – to our becoming the person we would like to be. In great part the Gospels are a succession of stories about Jesus’ life and ministry and, like all great teachers, Jesus told stories to give us insight, stories that have stood the test of time and speak to us today: the good Samaritan, the sower, the mustard seed, the talents (thank you Kim for your illuminating address on this a couple of Sunday’s ago) and so on. Like many of our stories, Jesus’ parables are not true. Unlike many of our stories, Jesus’ parables point to the truth.