Luke 8:4-10 (CEV)
4 When a large crowd from several towns had gathered around Jesus, he told them this story:
5 A farmer went out to scatter seed in a field. While the farmer was doing it, some of the seeds fell along the road and were stepped on or eaten by birds. 6 Other seeds fell on rocky ground and started growing. But the plants did not have enough water and soon dried up. 7 Some other seeds fell where thornbushes grew up and choked the plants. 8 The rest of the seeds fell on good ground where they grew and produced a hundred times as many seeds.
When Jesus had finished speaking, he said, “If you have ears, pay attention!”
9 Jesus’ disciples asked him what the story meant. 10 So he answered:
I have explained the secrets about God’s kingdom to you, but for others I can only use stories. These people look, but they don’t see, and they hear, but they don’t understand.
Past My Defences
When my kids were little we didn’t have a television. In fact, for various odd reasons, we’ve never had a t.v., just various screens to watch things on. And when the kids were little what they watched was almost exclusively VeggieTales.
We had ‘Where is God When I’m S-scared?’, ‘Flibber-o-Loo’, ‘Rack, Shack & Benny’, ‘Josh and the Big Wall!’, ‘King George and the Ducky’, ‘Esther … The Girl Who Became Queen’, ‘An Easter Carol’ and ‘A Snoodle’s Tale’ among others. And anyone who has spent time with young children will know that this meant watching and re-watching and re-watching these movies over, and over, and over again.
And the funny thing about these stories was that even when I was doubting and questioning the church or even my faith, I would hear these stories and they would slip past all of my cynicism, all of my anger, all of my fear and get me right in the “feels”.
There was truth to these stories. A way of living that I wanted to grab hold of and make my own. I cried and prayed every time we played Esther when it got to the song “tell my why … or show me your hand; tell me why because I can’t see my way through … what now, should I do” as I wrestled with decisions about how to care for our medically fragile child.
Hope’s song in ‘An Easter Carol’ rooted me in the story of Jesus when my disappointment with the evangelical church made me want to walk away from it all.
And Vischer’s incredible ‘Snoodle’s Tale’ reminded me to hold on to the truth that God accepted and loved me even when I didn’t know whether I could go on believing it with all of the older nay-sayers around me.
It turns out that stories are incredibly powerful.
They have the capacity to encourage, to inspire. They have the ability to get in under our defenses, to sneak past our radar and begin to work in the hard, broken parts of our hearts when no amount of lectures or instructions or ‘truth claims’ have any impact. They take us to a place where we are vulnerable, where we are able to find new perspective, where we remember things we always knew were true but that life has scraped away at over the years.
Jesus tells the disciples today, ‘I have explained the secrets about God’s kingdom to you, but for others I can only use stories. These people look, but they don’t see, and they hear, but they don’t understand.’ Stories, according to Jesus, are the way to sneak truth in to those who would otherwise be unable to see, unable to understand. It’s not a sure-fire bet, but the chances of a story getting through far outweigh the chances of a principle or academic treatise being taken in.
And although they may not work right away, the stories stick. They’ll play back in our heads over and over and over again, unraveling themselves and the messages hidden inside of them for weeks or months or even years until we find ourselves changed by them.
At least I’ve found that to be true for me.
Thanks to youTube, I re-watched these Veggietales stories this morning as I sat down to write. I remembered almost every word and cadence and melody. And yet instead of the doubt and the questions and the anger and hurt that overwhelmed me when I heard these the first time, today I am reassured. I am reassured by the undeniable reality that God cared enough to walk through those dark, hard times with me, sneaking God-reality past all of my blinders and defences until slowly but surely I was changed.Journal Questions:
- The stories we listen to are powerful, regardless of what messages they contain.
- What stories are you telling yourself?
- What stories are you listening to?
- What stories are you repeating and telling others?
- Do these stories breathe hope into darkness?
- Do they showcase love winning out against fear?
- Do they lift up the broken, the marginalized, the outcast?
- Do they call us to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us?