I GREW UP IN A FAMILY OF STORYTELLERS, and many of the stories told were from the Bible. I heard about two undisciplined sons who died for their folly and their fat, priestly father who obviously fathered poorly and did not care well for his people. Upon learning of his sons’ death, he fell over dead. I thought, “Lesson One: Don’t be foolish! Lesson Two: When I have kids, I better teach them well, or else! Lesson Three: Don’t get fat!”
Lost in the do’s and don’ts, the tales of intrigue and deception, the stories of heroism and folly, I never got the big picture. Somehow the stories all ended with Jesus being the answer, but the questions were ones I really didn’t want to ask.
Yet I knew there was something I was supposed to learn. Finally I boiled it down to this: Fear God above all else. Nothing could be worse than God finding you out, and he could see what even mothers couldn’t see. The way to get God really good and mad at you was to sin. In the stories I heard, people were struck dead when they lied. For me, fearing God meant fearing sin above all else. In my child’s mind, this meant managing all my small sins which would of course help me keep my distance from any of the big ones—the ones that would really upset him. Or, perhaps I could merely kill any desire or longing that might eventually get me into trouble. Then I wouldn’t even be tempted to sin!
Yes, that was the answer. In my world there wasn’t really much time, inclination, or motivation to sin, at least not the way I was taught to define sin.
True Desire was Kept Safely at Bay
And sin was made manageable.
It wasn’t until I sat in a college classroom listening to a small, meek man tell us the BIG picture of the Story of God, that something—was it desire? Longing?—began to stir inside me.
Instead of the tossed salad approach to the Bible—picking out the good stories for role model material and discarding the bad as unfortunate waywardness—this man served up the whole meal. In his classes, Buck Hatch built a framework for the gospel story which pieced together the stories into a workable whole.
Twenty years later, with the help of another friend, Elizabeth Turnage, I began to see the place my own story had in the gospel story. She sent me headlong into the priceless journey of telling my story purposefully, honestly, and honorably.
My story began with the first of all stories, in the garden. I learned we were created for glory, for joy, for delight, for desire. We are glorious creatures. But it is also a story of tragedy. We are fallen and we live in a broken world. This was not merely a story of sin, but a story of sinners. Even when we look our best, when our teeth are shiny-white and straightened, when we finally lose that last ten pounds—even then we often mimic the “us” we want to be, hiding who we truly are. How often are we one small slip of a word or deed away from exposing the rotting decay below the glossy front we present. This is the tragedy.
But the Story tells us we are loved anyway.
Even when we don’t know the depth of our own sin, God does. Even in our shiny pretending, he cherishes us, forgives us, and bleeds for us. It’s like a true fairy tale. One where, when all hope seems gone, a rescuer indeed comes. And he comes again and again, in the many tiny rescues of our lives, as well as the One Big Rescue when his life was given to save all of us he dearly loves. It seems too good to be true, yet there really is a happy ending.
But it’s not only about the ending.
Extraordinary things happen to us and in us and through us, before the end! We find that in spite of ourselves, we rise to the occasion, we manage not only to survive, but to shine. How is that possible?
It’s the gospel.
It’s fairy tale.
Stories tell me not only who I am but also who you are and what we are together. In fact, without you and your story I cannot know myself and my story. No one’s story exists alone. Each is tangled up in countless others. Pull a thread in my story and feel the tremor half a world and two millennia away.