What If God Is a Storyteller?Heavenly portents, weather disasters, wars among the nations, catastrophic earthquakes . . . signs of imminent apocalypse? Actually, they’re the setting for When the Mississippi Ran Backwards: a true account of the year 1811, whose extraordinary events in the US culminated in the great New Madrid earthquakes. The quakes, centered in the boot heel of Missouri, were so catastrophic that one of them temporarily reversed the flow of the mighty Mississippi River.
What a great book of great stories!—of heroes, villains, and red-handed deeds; of bold exploits, underhanded treachery, and the romantic beauty and calamitous power of nature.
We could be talking about the Bible. Spanning history from its dawn to its resolution, the Good Book is alive with fascinating characters and compelling tales that weave a grand metanarrative of creation, fall, and redemption. Shepherds and farmers are transformed into warriors, kings, poets, and prophets. Prisoners ascend to royalty, and royalty falls into captivity. Even the bewildering complexities of the Mosaic law and the deep theology of Paul lie within the context of larger stories that bring them to life.
Jesus himself, when he wanted to impart the secrets of heaven to his disciples, told them stories. God’s kingdom, he said, is like a mustard seed, a lost gold coin, a shepherd’s search for a wayward sheep. Parables drawn from the disciples’ everyday world helped them understand heaven’s invisible realities. And the true accounts of Jesus’s teachings, miracles, life, death, resurrection, and coming return—the Gospels—constitute the greatest story of all, of which all other stories are a part.
What if God is a storyteller?
And what if your own story is woven—together with countless other stories, present, past, and future—into his story?
Your life is a tale in the process of telling—and if you belong to Jesus, it will continue beyond the ages. For he is “the author and perfecter of [your] faith” (Hebrews 12:2 WEB).
Practically speaking, the Lord doesn’t operate in your life apart from you. You are his coauthor. But he is the one who initiates and completes, the Alpha and Omega, the first letter and the final period. You live your life, you respond to its events, but he fits it all together into a story only he knows how to tell. It’s a great comfort to know that whatever your life may look like, the One who loves you most has the final word on its true significance and your eternity. Who you are and who you are becoming is not up to you alone; the mighty, unseen Author is with you. And the ink with which you write, as his coauthor, is a combination of your choices and his grace that empowers you to write well. As you write, he is writing with you. Indeed, you are his story, created to express, as only you can, something unique about his heart, his character, his strength, his will, his redemptive love.
Every story includes conflict, something to reach for and something to overcome. The main characters we find compelling are those who struggle—not just against outward opposition but also with themselves. Like us, they fall, and not just once. But they always rise, and ultimately, they triumph.
David, through his faith, slew Goliath but succumbed, through his lust, to Bathsheba. Peter walked on the waves, saw Jesus transfigured on the mountaintop, and yet denied him when push came to shove. Both men broke on the rocks of their own tragic, all-too-human weaknesses. But each, in his own way, ultimately took his sin to God. No hiding, no games, but humble, brokenhearted honesty. So it was that God called David “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22). So it was that Peter rose from the ashes to become Christ’s fearless, outspoken leader of the first-century church.
We love these men’s stories because they give us hope—for David and Peter are no different from us. It’s in their weakness that God’s mercy, kindness, and power are revealed. Their stories are of men on a journey toward becoming fully themselves—the men God created them to be. So too the chronically discarded Samaritan woman at the well, and the prostitute (that’s what she was, you know) who poured perfume on Jesus’s feet. Their stories we love as well, not because of either woman’s holiness but because of her humanity and her life-changing encounter with her Author.
So take hope and take courage. You too are a story being written by the Master Storyteller, who loves you, is on your side, and is able to weave even the darkest passages of your life into a tale of far greater and enduring glory.