Telling Stories

When I clicked over to WordPress this morning, ready to start thinking about a blog, I spotted this article at the top of the home page, which then led me to this speech all about the power and importance of stories.

I was really rather struck by some of the quotes, so I thought I’d share them with you.

“Why do we need stories? Well, who would we be without them? And what would any of this mean?…Stories give shape to experience and allow us to go through life unblind. Without them, the stuff that happens would float around in some glob and none of it would mean anything. Once you have a version of what happened, all the other good stuff about being human can come into play. You can laugh, feel awe, commit a compassionate act, get pissed, and want to change things.”

– Alex Tizon, journalist

“People have had their stories from the beginning, whether they’re fables or for teaching lessons great and small, or histories that tell us where we came from, or big stories that help us cope with the world…We live for stories—whether they’re movies or TV shows or plays or poems or even newspaper pieces. We want stories told to us over and over again…They comfort us, they arouse us, they excite us and educate us, and when they touch our hearts we embrace them and keep them with us…We want our stories. They answer eternal questions like, ‘How could this happen?’ And they help us build theories about why this could happen.”

– Mary Lawrence, journalist and lecturer

Interestingly Mary says that ‘how’ and ‘why’ are the two questions people ask of both the Garden of Eden and the World Trade Centre. There are many different kinds of stories, but they all set out to answer some pretty fundamental questions, whether we give voice to those questions in the telling of them or not.

From the Garden of Eden to the World Trade Centre, and everything beyond and between, all of the stories that we tell are a search for the truth, and it is that truth we should be seeking.

Jesus declared that he is truth, and we saw over Christmas that he is Emmanuel, and so in every story we may look for the presence of God. He may not tell us how or why, but he will reveal his presence, and as that was enough for Job, so may it be enough for us.

“Stories are our prayers, so write and edit and tell them with due reverence, even when the stories themselves are irreverent.

Stories are parables. Write and edit and tell yours with meaning so each tale stands in for a larger message, each moment is a lesson, each story a guidepost on our collective journey.

Stories are history; write and edit and tell yours with accuracy, understanding and context and with unwavering devotion to the truth.

Stories are music; write, edit and tell yours with pace and rhythm and flow, throw in the dips and twirls that make them exciting, but stay true to the core beat. Remember that readers hear stories with their inner ear.

Stories are our conscience; write and edit and tell yours with a passion for the good they can do, the wrongs they can right, the truths they can teach, the unheard voice they can give sound to.

And stories are memory; write and edit and tell yours with respect for the past they archive and for the future they enlighten.

Finally, stories are our soul; so write and edit and tell yours with your whole selves. Tell them as if they are all that matters, for if that is what you do—tell our collective stories—it matters that you do it as if that is all there is.”

– Jacqui Banaszynski, journalist and lecturer

It’s not just the stories we read and hear, but the also the stories we tell that are important. The stories we tell about ourselves make sense of who we are and what we are doing here. They polish our experiences so that the good memories shine all the brighter and the bad times become less sharp and awkward to handle. They connect us to others as we weave our tales together. And they connect us to God as they add colour to the story he has been telling since the very beginning.

Our stories may be many years in the writing or they may have only just begun. They may have many twist and turns or they may have the comfort of a steady pace. They may bring such joy that they cannot help but bubble out of us or they may contain such sorrow that we tell them only with great reluctance.

Whatever our stories are, they are ours and they are the world’s and they are God’s, and that means they are a precious gift. We should never stop telling them.


Published by leighannegreenwood

Baptist minister in training with Revive Leeds. Blogging on behalf of Revive and (coming soon) for myself at Covenant Project.

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