A Word in Edgewise

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What Is a Story?

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“A story is a way to say something which can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say it.”  –Flannery O’Connor

I thought I’d revisit a post I wrote back in 2011 because it received a number of comments and continues to be relevant. I was inspired recently by a statement Flannery O’Connor made about “story.”  She was a gifted southern writer whose stories continue garner attention. 

We received a question on our Voice Facebook page from one of our fans.

Question: “What is propositional-based thought and how does it apply to us?”

The fan is referring to the introduction in one of The Voice products where we observe that people do not respond to propositions as well as they respond to stories. This, of course, is nothing new. People have been telling stories for thousands of years. Humans are hard-wired to tell stories, remember them and pass them along to others. 

Not long ago when people were sharing “the gospel,” they would boil it down to a set of manageable propositions:

1.  God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.

2.  But you are a sinner separated from God.

3.  Christ died for your sins and helps to bridge the gap between you and God.

4.  So put your trust in Jesus to be saved and you .

Now these propositions are true, but they make little sense when isolated from the greater story of God’s plan and purpose for the world and us. 

Let me illustrate it this way.  Here are some lines from one of the greatest films of all time (Casablanca 1942):

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”

 “Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects.”

  “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By.’”

 “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world and she walks into mine.”

 “If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not on it, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But soon and for the rest of your life.”

Now these are some of the most memorable lines in the film. But without the rest of the story you have no clue what it going on. They might punctuate the story, remind you of the story, illustrate the story, but they are no substitute for the story itself.

Imagine deciding whether or not to marry someone based on a resume. You might say, “Well, he looks good on paper.” No. We would never do that. On a first date you don’t exchange resumes or give a list of your strengths and weaknesses (you don’t, that is, if you expect a second date!). No. You sit down over a good meal and begin to tell your story. You talk about where you come from, what you love to do, what it was like to be the older brother or sister in a family of four, or whatever is unique to your own story.  This is how we woo a potential partner and how we make friends, by telling our unique stories to those willing to listen. 

God did not give us a list of propositions to follow. He could have, but he didn’t. Instead he gave us 66 books that detail an amazing story of love and redemption. Thomas Nelson has created The Voice Bible because they recognize the power of stories to tell the truth and call us into a new life.

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