Home > stories > Telling, Acting, Eating, Living the Story

Telling, Acting, Eating, Living the Story

Last week I enjoyed the opportunity to speak to a group in the healthcare field about navigating through crisis and change. It’s a bit ironic. I was speaking because the original speaker had a crisis and was unable to attend. In the midst of change, I spoke about change.

Some changes in life are so dramatic, so catastrophic that we never go back. Or as Bob Dylan says, “You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.” We cannot return to the way things were. Life changes unalterably. A person goes blind. Another person receives the gift of sight. Both lives change in unexpected ways.

Dramatic changes can mark the beginning of grief and bitterness and despair, but they also mark the beginning of a new way of life filled with surprise and wonder. Our health may change, our job may change, our relationships may change, our world may change.

As we process change, we tell a story about that change. It might be good or bad or funny or tearful, but we begin to tell a story. As I spoke to the audience last week, I invited them to tell their story. In fact, I suggested they tell their life story in 30 seconds. The 30 second boundary forces some details to the top and others vanish. It may help us focus on what story we are hearing in our head.

They told their stories, then I told Israel’s story.

Israel’s story gave them courage, strength, identity, vision. By retelling their story, they learned how to trust God and one another. The stories we tell about our own lives can trap us into patterns of discouragement or can give us hope, energy and clarity to move forward. I showed the healthcare workers how the stories we tell about our lives, our jobs, our families, our marriages really do have power for good or ill.

After finishing my talk, I continued to ruminate about stories, about Israel’s stories, about my stories and about the power of Gospel story.

After leaving Egypt, Israel recounted how YHWH dramatically rescued them from slavery and formed them at Mt Sinai. They told the story to their children. They acted the story in worship. They ate the story in Passover. Whether rising, walking, sitting or sleeping, they rehearsed the story of God’s faithful rescue over and over. This story was and is good news, also known as Gospel.

By rehearsing the story, they fixed their heart and minds and bodies upon the action of the Lord. By rehearsing the Gospel story, they learned to trust in the God they could not see and could not shape into forms.

But there came a day when they forgot to rehearse the story. They quit acting the story. They quit eating the story. They started listening to other stories of other gods. They forgot the faithfulness of the Lord. They forgot the commands of the Lord. They forgot the goodness of the Lord.

I know what it’s like to forget the story of God’s goodness. There have been times when I thought, dreamed and told the wrong story. In my story, I questioned God’s goodness, his faithfulness and his love for me. Once we tell the wrong story, we might get stuck in it.

In 2008, our church building burned and I lost my job. These two events impacted me in a deeper, harder way than over 20 years of battling with kidney disease. A dark cloud engulfed me. I started telling myself a story of failure and forsakenness. In the first story, I began recounting the past 20 years and questioned every decision I ever made. In the second story, I questioned God’s faithfulness.

Both stories battled in my imagination. Some days I’d think every decision I ever made was a bad one. Other days, I wonder why God chose to make me fail in everything I touched. I cried out to God, “Look at all I sacrificed for you! Why won’t you help me?”

The stories stole my joy. My gifted wife saw these false stories as a deathlike grip that was consuming me. In the midst of these discouraging tales, I had to hear again the Gospel story, or the good news God’s faithfulness.

Israel had to hear the Gospel story. Her existence depended on it. After generations of forgetting the stories of YHWH’s lovingkindness, Israel had become apostate. God in his goodness preserved them and honored the obedience of a few righteous kings, but eventually He gave them over to their false stories.

Babylon led the broken people into captivity. Babylon burned down the Temple. Babylon destroyed the land.

The people wept. Their songs and their stories failed them. So they hung up the harp and quit singing altogether. Now they lived in an alien land with alien gods. Abandoned by the God of their fathers. Lost in the darkness. They needed to hear the Gospel story.

Into this dark story of exile, appears a strange man who sees a strange light. Ezekiel encounters the glory of the Lord. The glory that once resided in the Holy of Holies appears to him on the shore of the Chebar canal while he stands among the exiles. To Ezekiel’s surprise, YHWH did not abandon his people as they stood by dark waters. He came in the midst of wind and storm and fire; in the midst of the four living creatures; in the midst of the sound of many water. YHWH came in glory.

And He gave Ezekiel a new story, a Gospel story. As Ezekiel talked, ate, sang and acted out the Word of the Lord, he exposed Israel’s sickly condition. He revealed the death that infected their worship, their imagination, their stories. He began to tell a story about a valley of dry bones.

7 I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.” (Ez 37)

In the former story Israel had been enslaved in Egypt and YHWH rescued them from the power of Pharaoh. In this new story, Israel is dead. YHWH raises them from the dead and restores them to be His people “inspired” by His Spirit. As Ezekiel proclaimed this Gospel story, the people come back to life. There are times when a change will be so dramatic, so life changing that we must learn how to hear and tell a new story.

Like Israel, we need to hear again the Gospel that’s too good to be true: Jesus Christ living, dying, rising again and interceding for us at the right hand of the Father. In this story, we hear our story. We’re not forsaken. Death doesn’t have the final word. Our ministries may die. Our friendships may die. Our dreams may die. Our bodies may die. But death is not the final word.

We may face changes in life that feel like death in our bones. We may lose our strength. We may lose things we thought we could never lose. In these times of crisis and dramatic change, we may question the goodness of God. We may question the faithfulness of God. We may damn ourselves in a hell of failure and regret.

The good news of Gospel bursts into this darkness with the light of hope. In Jesus Christ, we encounter the goodness of God who loves us even when we are enemies. In Jesus Christ, we encounter the faithfulness of God that cannot be stopped even by death. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.

We must hear Gospel. We must sing Gospel. We must act out Gospel. We must eat Gospel. When we rise, sit, sleep or walk, we rehearse the goodness of God. By His grace, our imaginations come back to life. Even in the midst of the suffering and uncertainty, we learn to sing the new songs of Zion. We rediscover our story in the story of Jesus Christ. Our lives matter. We are created for glory. And He will complete the work He has begun in us.

I encourage you to listen to the Gospel story. Listen again to your story of death and life in Christ.

Categories: stories
  1. October 6, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    In Acts 7, Stephen told the 1st century story of change for GOD’s tribe. They killed him for it. Doug, you tell the 21st century story of change for GOD’s tribe. They tried to silence your story too. LONG LIVE DOUG! Long live The Story!

  2. October 6, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    yes, the story of change is risk business. Thanks David!

  3. ginger
    October 9, 2010 at 8:54 am

    Love the story “seen” in Psalms 126

  4. October 12, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    a beautiful and inspiring story Doug. Well done!

  5. October 13, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Thanks Mark!

  1. October 25, 2010 at 9:32 am

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