We all love a good story: a story that engages us and meets us where we find ourselves. A friend of mine says: If I am not in love with the main character by page three, then the story hasn’t grabbed me. What is it that grabs you in a story? We’ve all been there—watching or reading a compelling tale that drives us to respond with emotion. The ugly cry in the theatre or on the plane
We, as communities, are constantly being shaped and reshaped by stories. We are formed by our legends, our myths and our common histories. Some stories are evil, such as the story that was told by Nazi Germany or the story that is told today by white supremacy groups. Any story that dehumanizes the other or raises one people above another is an evil story.
That is not to say that conflict should be absent from story. Some of the great stories are based around conflict: personal or those between nations. Some of the greatest stories of our time are about good versus evil; my favourites include Star Wars, The Lion Witch and Wardrobe, and The Lord of the Rings, just to name a few.
It's a little-known fact that the word “metaphor” is from the Greek metapherein, which means “a movement from one place to another.” This is why, in Greece, the public transportation system is called The Metaphoria.
In his book God in the Movies, Mark Burrows points out that since the Greek word for buses, trams or trains is metaphoria, and since a metaphor used in a story moves you from one idea to another, we can conclude that “a story gives us a ride.” He continues by saying that stories take us into the lives of another and invite us to engage in a variety of situations and places so that we are changed by the end of the ride. It is part of the reason we cannot put down a good book—because it has moved us from our living room or den into another space. We have become part of someone else’s life and experience.
Faith communities have powerful stories that change, encourage, challenge and comfort. They introduce us to people of faith—many of whom have journeyed on similar roads as we have each journeyed personally. We are also introduced to the Divine. We hear stories about how the Divine engaged humanity and how humanity tried to understand and build a relationship with the Divine.
For Christians who read the Hebrew Bible, we hear the story of people of faith who lived thousands of years ago. We hear the struggle of their faithfulness as they tried to live in relationship to their world and their God. For Christians, the Gospel—more than anything else—is the story that we shape our lives around. We are engaged by Jesus and we hear about his ordinary living, working and being. We can relate because these are stories of the everyday life and also of change, growth and community. Ultimately, these are stories of how oppression and injustice can be overcome by people of faith listening and living together. These stories take us on a ride to new and different places, and suggest to us, that our journey to reaching a similar place may not be as long or difficult as we’ve previously believed.
As we move into tomorrow, we must anticipate what story we are writing with our lives and how it will shape the world. Live your story with confidence in the tales you will write through living your life. Make sure it’s a good one.
The Right Reverend Logan McMenamie is the Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of British Columbia
You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, HERE
* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, January 25th 2020