It’s one of those times in life…
My soul needs to know that God profoundly loves me.
I must be reminded that He cares for me and the trouble I find myself in.
I want to hear that He will rescue me from the pain striking at my heart.
… So I go back to the Story.
Once upon a time…Those four simple words extend an invitation for the listener to enter in and to encounter a different world. If it is a good story, we will encounter truth, hope, and a deeper understanding about ourselves and the world we live in. A really good story echoes truth about God.
Often when we become an adult, we may disregard fairy tales as childish because we believe the lie that they are not true. We use our intellect to disregard the possibility of a fiery dragon or scheming witch or devious wolf that can devour us. But think for a moment. In this broken world, have you not come across a dragon, a witch, or a wolf in your life? I know I have.
British author, Neil Gaiman, states: “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” That is why we tell stories.
I often tell my students that the first biblical story a child should learn is the story of the Good Shepherd. Some of them question this.
“The first story?” they say. “Why is this most important? Isn’t Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection more important?”
“Why yes,” I respond. “That story is very important, but there is one more important story a child should hear first.”
“But what about sin? Shouldn’t we understand our sinfulness first?”
“Ah, the time will come for a child to understand his or her sin,” I say, “ a time when he or she is ready to really understand the consequences of it.”
We tell the Gospel story of the Good Shepherd first to enter into a world where there is a shepherd who deeply knows and loves his lambs. He watches them, cares for their needs, and seeks to keep them from harm. And when that lamb finds him or herself in trouble and deep pain, the Shepherd will search for them and rescue them from trouble they are in.
“Isn’t this the Gospel?” I ask my students. “In this story, we encounter the incarnate Jesus Christ, God in the flesh who came to rescue us from our sin.” In this story, we not only encounter Jesus, we are also invited to respond. And we do not just respond in an academic way. A good story will engage our hearts as well. We respond to the love between the Good Shepherd and his lamb. And we give thanks.
I hold in my heart the truth…
… that the Good Shepherd profoundly loves me.
…that the Good Shepherd cares for me and the trouble I find myself in.
…that the Good Shepherd will rescue me from the pain striking my heart.
This is why we tell ourselves stories.