The Value of Sharing Stories
July 31, 2023
Bishop Scott Alan Johnson’s August Reflection
“Listen, dear friends, to God’s truth, bend your ears to what I tell you. I’m chewing on the morsel of a proverb; I’ll let you in on the sweet old truths, stories we heard from our fathers, counsel we learned at our mother’s knee. We’re not keeping this to ourselves, we’re passing it along to the next generation— God’s fame and fortune, the marvelous things God has done.”
— The Message – Psalm 78:1-4 —
A few years ago I rode Amtrak from Fargo, ND to Eugene, OR to visit my in-laws. Somewhere in the plains of western North Dakota or eastern Montana we rolled past an intersection with an unmarked gravel road. A pickup with a young couple in the cab had stopped to let the train go by, and I happened to glance up just in time to see the couple share an exuberant high five and what looked like screams of joy, an obvious celebration to which I was entirely unconnected except for the brief instant when I was able to see it. It was one of those moments where you realize the breadth of human experience that exists in this world that we as individuals will never know. There are entire lifetimes going on all around us, and if we take Jesus words from the gospel of Matthew about lilies and sparrows and people seriously, we believe that God is deeply invested in all of them. While we certainly don’t have the capacity to connect all those stories as God does, where we are connected with one another, we have an opportunity and a privilege to share our stories, and rejoice in the presence of God in our lives together.
When my wife, Kristin, was in college, she read a book about a ship on which her paternal grandfather had served in the Navy during World War II. She was so intrigued by the book’s story that she asked her grandfather if he would tell her more about his experiences in the Navy. The result was a two-hour conversation my father-in-law recorded; it has since been transferred from cassette tape to CD, and soon it will be digitally uploaded into our digital library so that our kids and grandkids can hear those stories someday. It’s a treasure for my wife and her father, as it was the first time that either of them had heard many of these stories, and it was the last time the three of them talked about it together. Sharing our stories is not only a treasure for the listeners; there is an abundance of research that suggests that reflecting on our lives, and sharing honestly about who we are, where we’ve been, what happened, and how we responded, provides its own energy for healing and peace to the storytellers themselves.
In the hymn “Earth and All Stars,” we sing, “God has done marvelous things! I, too, sing praises with a new song!” The hymn, written by Nebraska native Herb Brokering, encourages us to proclaim how God is present and active in our lives, to sing about the marvelous God who walks with us through loss and victory, valley and mountaintop, death and life. Your story sings within God’s story, and it is meant to be shared, so that the generations to come may find their own song and story to connect to yours. Go and share your story, friends – sing praises with a new song!
Yours in Christ,