“The disciples came up and asked, ‘Why do you tell stories?’

[Jesus] replied, ‘You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. . . . Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely.  But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears.  That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight.” (Matthew 13:10-13, The Message)

Jesus says that He told stories — or parables — to create readiness.  Isak Dinesen said, “All sorrows can be borne if they are put in a story.”  My friend, Nita Andrews, recently shared with me that she believes that everyone has a parable from the Scriptures that is “theirs” — that reveals insights and understandings of their life story, that allows them to make sense of the sorrow, brokenness, and craziness of their life.  I think that means that the stories of the Bible — of silent Adam, manipulative Eve, impatient Moses, infertile Hannah, addicted David, confined Esther, isolated Joseph, unwed and pregnant Tamar, philandering Samson, jealous and vindictive Jezebel, chosen Isaac, outcast Rahab, doubting Thomas, favored Mary, thirsty Samaritan, hated tax collector, sick and grasping ragwoman, beloved John, frantic and grieving sisters, betraying Peter, condemned adulteress, blessed prostitute, forsaken Son, grieving Father — all of these stories and more are not meant to be merely instructional or inspirational.  The stories of the Bible are meant to be incarnational — to take on flesh and blood in our own lives.  God is the Grand Storyteller of our lives and He’s given us stories to give insights and understandings into our own stories and into His story — to help us bear the sorrows of our stories as we get a glimpse of how He bears the sorrows of His story. 

So my question for you is What’s your parable?  I would love to hear your stories — the insights and understandings that the stories of the Scriptures have brought to you about you and about God as well as the sorrows they have helped you to bear.  I have identified with many Bible stories ever since I heard them in countless Sunday School classes or Good News Clubs where the stories came alive through my brilliant storytelling mother with the aid of flannelgraph pictures and prizes for being able to answer questions correctly at the end of storytelling time. 

I would love to hear your stories and make them a part of this collection of Stories of Salvation.  I think we will be amazed at the mystery found in our being able to identify with the same stories for very different reasons.  E.B. White in his essay “Home-Coming” writes about why there may be differing perceptions in the middle of the same story, “Steering a car toward home is a very different experience from steering a car [to make a speech or get a degree], and if our findings differ, it is not that we differed greatly in powers of observation but that we were headed in different emotional directions.”  Your parable right now might depend on your emotional direction.

I remember one Old Testatment story that pierced my heart — probably much in the way Jesus talked about stories reaching the reticient heart.  This was a story that I had heard many times in Sunday School and knew as I heard this story told, even with the colorfull flannelgraph images and the neat and tidy Sunday School applications, that God was a dangerous God who was not always safe.  I read this story again, but as if for the first time, during my drinking days while I was preparing to teach a Sunday School class of my own.  Numbness, guilt, and shame were my emotional directions.  The story found cracks in the wall that I had built around my heart and wafted through those cracks to reach every one of my senses.  That’s a good story!  Immediately I saw the scene of this story about another mother who was making risky choices.  I felt her guilt and shame and fear about what God might do to her. I heard the cries from her lips and the even more terrible, haunting cries of her children.  I smelled the ruins of her decisions.  And I could taste this story.  Even as I anticipate sharing this story with you in my next post, I can taste it again.  Years ago when this story first penetrated my unready heart, the taste in my mouth made me thirsty.  And I reached for a drink — of the alcoholic variety.  One proof that these words of Jesus at the beginning of this post are true is that today, after pondering this story, my ready heart will slake this taste that the story leaves in my mouth with a tall glass of iced tea.

Tell me your parables.  I will tell you mine throughout the posting of these Stories of Salvation, starting with my next post about the story of a mother who was saved by looking back.