Story as Spiritual Practice
ASL Blog with English Transcript
Hi! It’s Tessi and today I’m going to be talking about Story as an important spiritual practice. If you’re wondering what I mean by Story as a “spiritual practice”, don’t worry; I will explain.
I was brought up in church, and I learned a lot about the Bible. One of the things I noticed is that there are two main ways the Bible is presented.
First, the Bible can be talked about as an old, old book full of stories such as the young, small David killing the giant Goliath, or God closing the mouths of the lions for so they couldn’t kill Daniel. Or the birth of Jesus in a stable, lying in a manger, with cows and sheep gathered around, or even the story of Jesus’ crucifixion.
The other way the Bible can be presented is as a book which has all the answers for life, all the rules; as the instruction book of how to draw close to God.
So this raised a question for me: are both these approaches true? Are both wrong? I wasn’t sure.
As I’ve gone through my life, sometimes I’ve found myself stuck. Because I grew up with the idea that the Bible has all the answers for each situation, I expected it would, but then sometimes I would run into something that just didn’t fit. I would read the Bible, looking for something that matched the situation I was facing, and I just couldn’t find anything that really applied. I would ask pastors to help me figure out how to find the answer I needed, and sometimes they have been able to help me, other times even they were stumped.
So as time passed, I wondered is it true that I’m only able to learn about God in the Bible? I have read the Bible over and over and over, and I have it deeply in my mind and heart…is that enough? Should I be satisfied with what I know?
One day it happened that I was watching a movie. I don’t even remember which movie it was, but something in that movie just really struck me deep in my heart; it revealed something to me about God. It wasn’t a Christian movie at all, it was just that as I was watching the people in the movie, the story of what happened to them, I was left in awe at what it revealed to me about God, and I thought “Wow, how interesting that that movie taught me about God.”
Later I was reading a book, a true story, and I was again struck with an experience of recognizing God in THAT story. I learned about God through a book that wasn’t the Bible.
So I started thinking more about the Bible, and what it really IS. And I thought “Hmmm. The Bible really is a combination of true stories about God; stories of the Israelites and God, the gentiles and God, lots of different stories that are about God interacting with people.
So I came back to the Bible and started reading it again, putting aside the idea of it containing a list of rules that I needed to follow, or lessons I needed to learn, and just looking for the Story. God’s Story.
I saw many stories in the Bible; stories about a people striving toward God, falling away before they reached their goal, or making a mistake, then trying and trying to get back to God and God loving them regardless. God forgiving them, giving them grace. I also saw stories of God being frustrated and correcting people…a wide variety of stories about God interacting with people and as I read them I became even more fascinated.
I started to realize that the Bible is definitely full of stories about God, but I also wondered if, after these stories of God interacting with us got written down… was that it? Are there no more stories of God interacting with people? I find that idea impossible; God’s interacting with ME, God’s interacting with you, he interacted with my parents, with my friends; my life is full of stories of people experiencing God.
So I wondered; are the Bible stories the only place I can learn about God? I began to believe I could learn from many different places.
So I started researching, and trying to find out if this idea was true. Could I learn about God from stories beyond what was in the Bible? I discovered that actually, many people have used different stories of God to help them learn more about God; to learn what God does, what God wants, what God’s response is, how God helps and interacts with people.
And I was just fascinated. I started reading more and watching a wide variety of movies. Documentaries, biographies, fictional movies and a wide variety of books full of stories. Stories of people’s strengths and weaknesses, their success and failures and what they’ve learned through them. And I found that I began to learn more about God. I also learned about myself, and many other things in the process.
I was amazed to understand that God can reach out and touch us through many different kinds of stories, not just only the Bible
So what do I do now? I read the Bible, yes. But I also read different stories. For example, I read stories related to the lives of Christians from years past. Catholic, Baptist, Assembly of God—many different stories from even before churches were established. I read stories about what the Christians back then did, how they related to God, their successes and failures and wow! It’s been so beneficial to me!
I’ll talk more about this in Story Part Two!