A Culture of Stories

Any of you who know me well know I love to tell stories. I study stories at college, and I’ve told them since I’ve been able to speak… some of them have been more true than others. 😉 I don’t necessarily feel called to minister in the culture I’m currently visiting long-term, but I do love it, because this culture loves stories. I’ve seen two Christmas pageants performed by children, and in each one, there was no director sitting on the front row. Each child knew his lines perfectly. They sang, they danced, they read, they recited, and they acted with much gusto. They loved the story itself, and they loved to help tell it. That is how any important story is told in this culture.

I recently saw The Hobbit (more than once), and one of my favorite lines was “All good stories deserve embellishment.” This is the philosophy of people here: a good story should be embellished with drama and singing and dancing to enhance and proclaim its value and truth. We western Christians could learn a lesson from them. Stories are important. They are the fabric of our daily lives, with plot lines and truths weaving us together. We have built our culture, our beliefs, and our understanding of society on the stories we have been told. Certainly our Bible stories should be given a place of honor.

Unfortunately, the people here honor the stories of their faith just as much as the believers here. My team and I recently visited a Buddhist temple. As someone trained to recognize stories in their various forms, I was completely overwhelmed by their numbers. The walls and ceiling of the temple were covered in beautiful murals depicting gods, goddesses, spirits and humans in divine narratives. The various Buddha statues in the center of the building stretching to the roof told stories of how their real-life counterparts had achieved enlightenment and been relieved of the burdens of this world. The small idols for sale at the back of the temple were images of various deities whose stories tell of how they are especially equipped to bring those who house them good luck, health, wealth, or happiness. And worst of all, evil spirits inhabit the statues, tiny spirit houses, and objects they are invited into. These spirits control the lives of the people with their perverted narratives. The worshippers truly believe the demons have the powers they claim as ‘gods.’ They truly believe that by appeasing the spirits with money, incense, fruits and other expensive offerings, that they can win their approval. Their narratives are riddled with lies, so the promised fulfillments never come. And the people are enslaved.

I am more grateful than words can express that I know of the True narratives. I know of a loving Father, and a redeeming Savior. I know of a God whose story is not limited to a time or place; a God who specializes in being the All in All; a God who says of himself not ‘I will come,’ but ‘I Am.’ My God has given me the stories of Life—stories that always satisfy. And He hears me when I pray. I do not need flags that wave or bells that ring or incense that rises. My God understands my voice even when I cannot bring it to form words, because I have an Intercessor Incarnate. And that makes all the difference. Join with me in lifting these people up to Father. Ask that they would begin to learn the stories that will free them from their bondage.