One of the (many) gifts I took away from my recent class in Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) was a renewed appreciation for the role that story plays in a life of faith. The Old Testament begins with long sections of story-telling. These stories are re-told and re-interpreted throughout the rest of the Old Testament books and into the New Testament. In fact, we still engage with those stories today both in traditional religious settings and in literature.
While there are ways that my religious upbringing has left some deep scars, one of the things that it did give me was a strong knowledge of these stories. Some of the stories are comforting, many are disturbing in one way or another, but all reflect the messiness of real life as it was then and as it still is today.
I love novels like Madeleine L’Engle’s Certain Women that bring Biblical stories into modern life and re-enact them in familiar settings. (In this case, it’s a re-telling of the story of King David and his many wives and children adapted for the twentieth century. The troubled family dynamics translate well into today’s world.) It reminds me that for all that life has changed through the centuries, human nature is still human nature, and there is much that I can learn from others’ stories without having to go down the same hard roads myself.
This is particularly on my mind tonight for two reasons. First, I’ve been reading Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why. She mentions near the end of this book that one of the things that she is seeing in this movement is an increased value being placed on narrative and on the messiness, the paradox, and the heart-centered focus that story brings with it. I find this encouraging.
I came away from finishing that book to read today’s edition of The Writer’s Almanac in my email inbox to find the poem of the day to be one with a reference to a Biblical story used in such a way to create a punch that really shook me. The poem describes something I have done (though not exactly as described) more than once in my life without ever recognizing it or recognizing the parallel to the Biblical story. The beauty of this reference and the way that it is treated took my breath away.
I don’t have permission to reproduce the poem here, so to respect the author’s copyright, I’ll refer you to The Writer’s Almanac website for today’s edition. The poem is “A Fable” by Louise Gluck. It’s short and very well worth the time to read it!
Perhaps this love of story and of the delight in searching out meaning in story is what leads me to blog the way I do, sharing my own story and my attempts to find meaning in that story as a way to inviting you into your own story and your own search for meaning. Maybe my learning to see the world this way in my childhood church experiences has framed the way I see and interpret the world now … or maybe it’s just the way that I am made.
I may never know. But for tonight, I am just rejoicing in the existence of story, mine and yours and those that we grow up with that frame our worldviews. How much richer our lives are for the beauty of shared stories!
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