select stories

I love when conversation lends itself to story telling. Alan & I were recently in a restaurant and were having so much fun listening in on the stories the guy behind us was stringing together for the benefit and enjoyment of the others in his party. They were having a great time, and so were we.

I got thinking then about how so much of our conversations is just that, relating of stories--descriptions of events, recounting of interactions, and so forth.

As I spent time visiting family members this past week, I was thinking about this concept, this post, and how true it is that the stories we share reveal something about who we are, what's important to us, or what we feel the listener needs to know about something--even if we don't come out and say the "lesson" we hope they'll gain from the sharing of the story.

Dialoguing with an editor-friend recently, I realize sometimes my bent is toward direct instruction, the teacherliness coming out too obviously, rather than just letting the story stand and allowing the reader to pick up on those lessons gradually.

And in the meantime I believe I was influenced by a book (though I cannot even remember which one it was at the moment) that was discussing the largely narrative nature of the Old Testament.

In reading through Genesis these past couple of weeks, I have felt a growing understanding of who God is as He has selected out and related specific stories for the benefit of those who would read His Book (you and me). I love that! And I love Him more because of that.

Along the way I was also struck with how much we miss when we're distracted from or avoid times together that feel like just a bunch of people sitting around sharing stories. To listen to my uncle, or my gramma, my dad, my mom, my brother or a friend--these are all opportunities to learn--about who they are, how they think and feel and why, what's important to them, the wisdom they've gained through their unique experiences and perspectives--wisdom that truly could protect me and help me to understand this world and where I fit in it. Definitely not a waste of time.

Two flares--warnings that shoot up regarding relationship pitfalls:
1. Take the time to listen.
Do we take the time to listen that we so desperately need or do we avoid these opportunities, replacing them with vain amusements? Do we listen to the truths
that those before us know we need? Do we allow them to pass on the wisdom they have learned?

Do we listen without interrupting? Do we let the person say it or do we try to insert what we think they want to say at certain points along the way or to argue a point that hasn't been made? This is one I have to be careful of too, to keep my mouth shut, allowing the long pauses for thought so the person can put his or her ideas together without my pre-editing them. We show respect and love for the other person as we listen to what they have to say.
And beyond human relationships, do we take the time to listen to the God, the One Who has recorded his heart in an eternal Book? Do we see His purposes in telling us each of His specific stories, whether directly stated or not? (And some are harder to figure out than others--why did God include ....) Do we learn from the Book and adjust our livestyles to match up to His purposes?

And let me include, too, an emphasis I've picked up from listening to my dad--we have the Holy Spirit. Understanding the Scriptures is not "on my own" learning. We have a Teacher that illuminates the lessons to our hearts, that strengthens our relationship with the Author, that allows us to grasp the intended meaning the closer we grow in relationship to Him.
A second warning would be:
2. Do not jump to conclusions and responses of anger.
And again, yes, I'm speaking from experience, but it is so easy when we do not understand a premise or the setting/context of a story or the person's viewpoint who's telling it, to jump into the muddy puddle "anger" and ruin everything. Suspend judgment ("longsuffering"), assume the best ("love"), ask questions, and graciously try to understand what the person was saying. We're all always still trying to get to know the other person, even if we've grown up with that person or are married to that person. Dear friend, we must be patient and forgive when others have jumped and ask forgiveness when we have. Restoration is absolutely vital for growing relationships.

I've seen this be true for people regarding God as well. They misunderstand
what He has said or they do not know Him well enough yet, and they assume He
meant ..., and they respond in anger and jump ship. Theirs is a sad conclusion
for they have left off listening to the One Who would have saved them, Who loves
them eternally.

James 1:19-25 (NIV here) seems apt, this time rather than a story, a letter clearly stated. I think you'll see the two warnings here as well:

"My dear brothers [and sisters], take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what is says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does" (emphases mine).


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