It was a casual conversation, yet as it went on, it became more and more difficult to listen to. Now I like a good story, but when a story is being spun in a way that suggests it is verifiably factual, but it’s not, my inner skeptic alarm goes off. Again, tell me a tall tale, entertain me with wit and embellishment, share something that leads to a deeper meaning or truth, I’m good. Yet to suggest something is unequivocal truth, when you know it’s not, is challenging.
I am working with a great group of people on an upcoming retreat which will focus on The Word and words. The daily themes of the retreat will include: the stories we have been told, the stories we tell others, the stories we tell ourselves, and the stories we will tell. As such, I have been thinking a lot about the stories we tell, but particularly in light of Paul’s words to the Ephesians, “But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…” (Ephesians 4:15)
Friend and colleague Valerie Tutson, an African American storyteller, blessed the Breck community this morning with her command of the narrative. One of the things that I have always appreciated about Valerie is not only how she embodies the story, but how she pulls you right in with her. When she tells the story of Sara, Rahab, or Mary, not only are you right there with them, you are also hearing our sacred story in new and enlightening ways. And amidst it all, a big part of Valerie’s message is to share your story.
So what are the stories we have been told, the stories we tell others, the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we will tell? And will we tell the stories “speaking the truth in love?” Like all of us, I have people who tell me “stories” as if they were the truth, when in fact they are at minimum an opinion, and at worst a lie. I have also been blessed to know both wonderful storytellers and those who always tell me, even when it is challenging, “the truth in love.”
As followers of Jesus, and as people who have a sacred story, there are several invitations for us: First, to strive to always be in a position of listening deeply to the way the Spirit is manifesting the truth to us. Second, to not only share our sacred story, but to pay attention to how we are telling the story to ourselves and to others. And finally, to always ask ourselves, “Am I telling this story in truth and love?” In fact, I would humbly suggest that we take a millisecond every time we share a story with others, to ask ourselves the question, “Am I about to speak, as I know it, the truth in love?”