“Hey, do you know any good stories?” To be honest, it’s a question that makes me freeze just as much as being called upon to tell a joke (I have just one, it’s quite long, and cheesy).
Yet, we do so much storytelling. We ask each other to tell stories all the time: “How was your day?” “What happened on holiday?” “How’s your Mum?”
Lately, the questions are often about politics or climate change– “so, what do you think will happen?”. Sometimes the conversation turns to beliefs and values – “what do you think happens when we die?” These future-orientated conversations are also stories, drawing on our experiences, beliefs and imaginations, for who can actually give the definitive answer on the politics of today or what we believe?
A story can occur in the context of a conversation. I think a story is also an invitation to dialogue. A story implies a teller and a listener. To be a listener is not a simple thing. We do not simply open our ears and absorb information, the act of listening is an act of interpretation. A story invites us to ask back: “What do I think of this? Do I like the events or the characters re-told? Do I find their motivations truthful and realistic? Do I agree with their actions?”
Not all stories are supposed to be the truth, but stories are usually told to be convincing in some way. We tell stories to share data (the lost luggage on holiday) and viewpoint (whether the holiday company responded well), and then use that story to suggest that others should or should not book with that company ever again.
Story-telling is natural to us. The question “tell me something about your faith” is an invitation to tell a story. This story is a truthful one. It is part of a dialogue in which the listener and storyteller together work out the meaning for each person. It is one of the ways that we “try on” the Christian story for size, asking if it makes sense for this part of my life, and this, in the past, or now, or perhaps for the future. We don’t need to be afraid of the opportunity to tell a part of our faith-story.