When our kids were little, one of their frequent requests was: “Daddy, tell us a story about a time you got hurt.” That may sound strange and a bit ghoulish, but they asked this all the time. And, luckily for them, Dad had plenty of painful tales to choose from. One of their very favorite stories was the one about the toothpick. As I remember it, young Brent was being goofy in his chair at the kitchen table, rocking back and forth as elementary-aged kids like to do. Eventually, all that rocking led to him falling out of his chair and onto the floor, inexplicably landing on a toothpick which became imbedded into his side. His mom was unsure what to do—seeing as how this was decades before she could’ve googled the solution for such a bizarre predicament—so they went to the doctor where the toothpick was removed.
At the close of his story, our kids would sometimes ask follow-up questions or more often just cackle with delight. They knew exactly what would happen, but they still liked to hear it over and over. My guess is they mostly enjoyed being near him and hearing their daddy’s voice. The repetition and predictability were comforting. Connections were created and memories were made. Another chapter of our family lore was written, and certain cautionary tales about the inherent dangers of toothpicks were tacked on for the benefit of future generations.
This is the magic of storytelling. It never ceases to amaze me what language can do, which is reasonable since words have been around since the very beginning of the world. You only have to read three verses into the first book of the Bible to find the phrase “And God said.” His words brought forth light where there was a complete and utter void. Obviously, my words can’t do that, but what are they capable of?
For one thing, what I say can be a balm to the weary. Proverbs 16:24 reminds me that “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” And 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says that my words can be a source of reassurance. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.”
Jesus had a lot to say about words and listening and telling others the important things we hear. In Matthew 12, He said, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
I love the inspiration for storytelling in Psalm 107. “Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies.” Our stories can be constructed in such a way as to highlight what God has done for us, and we’re commanded to take part in the telling. We don’t have to use fancy words or a theatrical voice. We need to absorb the truths of the Scriptures and then weave our own experiences into the big story of God’s family.
Deuteronomy 6 says it best: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” When we tell others about the times when see God in our story, we take part in a simple, yet profound act of worship.