“There once was turtle named Tom who had big plans. He wanted to join the circus …”
“It all started one warm evening in June. It was an unusually dry late-Spring in Bristol, but today the smell of damp paving stones lingered in the air …”
“Something was wrong! It wasn’t anything he could put his finger on, but the silence was ominous and George knew he had to get out of there quickly … ”
If you’re like me (and every human being seems to be in this instance), each of these statements kickstart your brain.
You’re relaxed. You’ve settled in — very quickly — and are ready for more.
Stories have that affect on us. They can be real, fictional, short, long, historical, fantastical or even a single sentence. But no matter what form they take, stories tickle our brains.
Think of how many of our daily interactions are simply an invitation to tell stories …
How was your day? (And don’t just answer “fine”, because nobody likes that guy.) (I’m usually that guy.)
What have you been up to lately?
Did you hear what happened to _____?
And the list goes on.
We crave stories.
We need stories because we are relational creatures and stories allow us to understand other people and to engage with them.
Stories do things to us that nothing else can …
… Stories capture our attention.
… Stories bypass our rational side and engage our whole selves.
… Stories move us to action because they trigger emotional responses. Research shows us storytelling is more likely to be effective at changing beliefs than anything designed to persuade through argument and evidence.
… We get lost in stories and are able to understand what they are saying without ever being explicitly told.
… Stories fill us with wonder and make us want to know more, figure things out, or get to know someone better.
… Stories allow us to imagine … and imagination leads us to many a wonderful place. We can envision what we might be able to do, what things could look like, or how to act/react in a particular situation.
We are storytelling creatures. It’s how we are made. It’s how we make sense of our world and explain it to others.
Our brains look for stories in order to make sense of the things we encounter throughout the day. And at night, we keep telling ourselves stories in dream form — many scientists now believe dreams are a way for our brain to turn a bunch of random bits of information into coherent memories (our dreams turn short-term information into coherent stories in order to make long-term memories).
Our relationships are shaped and maintained by sharing stories. And when nobody is around to share stories with, we tell ourselves stories. While the average “daydream” lasts only about fourteen seconds, we have about 2,000 of them each day.
… And that is why I find it so amazing to realize and understand that the Bible is the “Story of God”.
We have been given a story to explain who God is, what He is like, and what his life in us looks like.
Over the next couple weeks, I want to write a few thoughts about why we would be given a story instead of a series of arguments and evidence (hint: much of that answer is above, but I’ll hopefully tackle it from a couple different directions) and how that could/should impact how we read and interact with the wonderful gift we’ve been given in the bible.
Now if only I was a better storyteller …