Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Things that Matter: Story

Long drives were always unbearable growing up. I am sure my brother and I constantly asked if we were there yet and argued over which side of the backseat was whose. Yet you really couldn’t blame us. This was years before portable DVD players. We were fortunate enough to have a pair of the first generation Gameboys. But how long do you expect an 8 year old to play Tetris?

We did however, always like it when our Uncle Rick would take us places. Sometimes we would stay at his house when Mom and Dad went out of town. He lived a few hours away and would come pick us up at the beginning of the weekend. Rick had this teal GMC truck in which the three of us would all sit on the bench seat. Thankfully, I was the oldest and always got to sit by the window. It was a standard. Need I go any further?

These road trips were great because we did not have to depend on the Gameboy to entertain. Rick handled those duties. Like clockwork, as soon as we would merge on the highway Jake and I would ask him to “tell us a movie”.

This request probably sounds a little strange so let me explain. God bless her but my mother was pretty strict on the types of movies we were allowed to see. As a result, most of the movies that an 8 year old obsessed about were off limits. No Rambo. No Terminator. We weren’t allowed to play Duck Hunt when it first came out because it had a gun. She’ll deny it but it is true.

Rick knew of our strife and, since we couldn’t watch these movies, he would tell us the wonders of “Jaws”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and other Spielberg classics. My brother and I would sit in amazement as the highway miles rolled on, listening to Rick describe in great detail a story of an archeologist racing the Nazis to find the Ark of the Covenant. He never left anything out. Even the part where the Nazi soldiers get their faces melted off by the ghosts that come out of the Ark.

This seemed like a good topic to address this week, not only because the new Indiana Jones film releases soon, but because it highlights a deeper love of mine. Those road trips did not just spark a love for the Indiana Jones trilogy but they introduced me to the power of story.

Nearly twenty years later, I am still fascinated with a good story. I know it sounds a little like LeVar Burton here but stories really can take you places you can only imagine. When was the last time you were able to escape in a book or movie? These experiences should not be taken lightly.

On a deeper level, stories have the ability to communicate thoughts and concepts too complex or hard to remember otherwise. It is for this reason that Jesus himself told stories to simple, probably illiterate, fishermen. Could it be possible that those who recorded such accounts still couldn’t get their heads around what Jesus was actually saying as they penned the parables? Stories have that ability to stick with you.

And when people dismiss stories, I want to remind them that sometimes a story can communicate more truth than some realize. Some Biblical readers have difficulty with labeling certain narratives as metaphor. Yet it is Marcus Borg who reminds us that there is often a greater truth in a metaphor. It is as if the truth is too grand to fit into a simple literal thought. And just because it didn’t happen exactly the way it says it did (literally) doesn’t mean that it is still not true. Take a look at the book of Revelation to start with.

So whether it is a tale about a dashing archeologist or a prodigal who returns home, stories have a way of sneaking not just tugging at our hearts, but also our minds.

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