Religion

Faith Matters: Here’s why it’s important to surround yourselves with good stories

Because I’m a preacher, I scour several different news sites, almost daily, searching for my next sermon illustration.

In fact, whenever I’m not sleeping, I’m on the hunt. A story, image or metaphor can serve as a coat hanger for the truth, making the complex more concrete.

At one time, I thought the “telos” or purpose of an illustrative story was simply to help people understand and remember. But I’ve since learned that a story functions more deeply than bringing something to mind; it brings something to heart.

In fact, a good story doesn’t just reveal truth. It invites us in, to see, taste and feel the beauty and goodness of such truth.

Christian philosopher James K.A. Smith encourages us not to reduce human beings to human “thinkings.” In other words, people are formed less by what they think and more by what or whom they love.

In Alan Jacobs’ “How to Think,” he argues that even our thinking is shaped by what we desire most.

I think both are on to something. Saint Augustine describes sin as “disordered love.” In the book of James, we see communal quarrels stem from individual selfish and competing desires.

Our disordered affections need reordering. And an often neglected path forward in that reordering involves continually exposing our hearts and minds to a truth more beautiful.

Ashley Hales, author of “Finding Holy In the Suburbs,” sends out a weekly email that comprises a thoughtful article and a story that captures the beauty of God’s image in people, a sacrifice, experience of redemption, act of kindness, etc.

When we become captivated by the beauty of God’s truth, we can’t get enough. This past week our church celebrated the life of one of our dear members.

Another pastor and I shared the sadness of death, but also the beautiful truth of the resurrection. Her daughter and friend supplemented our teaching with stories. Stories of the beauty of her motherhood, her encouragement to grieving friends, her concern for the less fortunate.

The beauty reminded me of the truth I profess, and the truth I profess became so beautiful when lived out in the life of this saint. My desires and priorities continued the long slow process of reordering.

You shouldn’t only surround yourself with people who encourage you, because darkness needs light. But you can surround yourself with stories if you keep your eyes open.

Read them. Share them with others. Reflect how such beauty may be missing. Be amazed by the sacrifice of others without feeling burdened by guilt because Jesus made the once for all time sacrifice for all who believe.

Instead, join them.

All good stories connect to the ultimate never-ending story. Some refresh us when we see God’s image in people.

Some stories illustrate our sin, brokenness and need for redemption. Others inspire hope, giving us a glimpse into a world restored, and spurring us to serve as ambassadors for reconciliation.

When we look at the stories God has surrounded us with, His never-ending story intersects our busyness, becoming even more apparent and attractive. We begin to question less and become shaped unto Him whom we behold.

It is not because we receive all the answers, but because we receive a relationship with the author of the greatest and truest story ever told.

Contact Pastor Geoff Henderson at geoff@harborcommunitychurch.org or follow him on Twitter @theapostleGH. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Bradenton Herald written by local clergy members.

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