One winter at dusk, he responded to a call for a cow stuck in the ice. It was snowing, and the firefighters racing over slick country roads in my dad’s car vowed never to ride with him again!
He and his firefighters set up at the local pond as darkness descended, and donned gear for an ice rescue. The herd milled around moaning on the banks, fretting over the commotion.
Dad waded in and stood at the head of the trapped animal, stroking its neck to keep it calm while another firefighter broke the ice around it, moving to take up the rear. They planned to gently prod the frightened animal forward to safety.
When everyone was in place, Dad grasped the animal’s head and instructed his partner to reach under and protect the udder, so it didn’t snag on the ice. Just as his partner reached beneath, Dad felt a surge from the beast.
“Hey, Chief! This cow hasn’t got an udder!” were the last words Dad heard before the bull charged out of the water and up the bank with Dad holding onto its neck for dear life. That night, Dad took a ride he never forgot either.
Things aren’t always what they seem on the surface. Especially, in stories. Sometimes, the truth hides on the soft underbelly of a story, and reveals itself too late for us to save ourselves from a bumpy ride in the dark.
We live surrounded by storytellers.
Everyone from car salesmen to politicians, radio hosts to filmmakers, marketers to the NFL, have learned the trick to capturing our attention is to tell us a compelling story. We love to be moved. We revel in every humorous, intriguing, heart-wrenching, cliffhanging detail of a well-told tale.
Which makes sense, yes? And testifies to the existence of God. We were designed for stories. Our Creator is a Master storyteller, so of course, He hard-wired us with an unrelenting hunger for them.
But, like everything good in this fallen world, not every storyteller serves the same master. Our enemy has appropriated storytelling for his dark ends and so, it’s becoming harder and harder to tell if we’re receiving life-sustaining milk or just getting a lot of bull.
Tell me a story and you have my ear. Make it captivating, and I’m open to your worldview. Make it truly compelling, and I might purchase whatever you’re selling, even if its darkness and lies. In fact, I may crawl deep inside your story and lose my way before I realize I should have left a trail of bread crumbs before I followed your words this far into the forest.
These are the days for remembering a truth we learned as children, that bad stories can be good, and good stories can be very bad. While dark and scary stories full of big bad characters can be enough to send us running for our covers, they may teach us to be wary of dangers that are very real. These are bad stories, stories that make us squirm or shiver, that are good.
Other stories are beguiling, mesmerizing, tantalizing, engaging, and comforting to the point we want to curl up inside them and call them home, but are woven of the most insidious evil lies. Before we see the fallacy in the fable, we grow drowsy-eyed amid the poppies and find our souls have lost their will to rise without support. These are good stories that are very, very bad.
Soldiers in every war prepare to confront other soldiers. They’re alert for a clearly uniformed, well-armed enemy. It’s the grinning old lady from the village with a sword beneath her sweater or the innocent child with a bomb strapped into his basket that are the stuff of soldiers’ nightmares. There are stories, these days, as sharp as daggers, as explosive as IEDs.
Pay attention, loved ones, to the stories you absorb. Track the number of stories you encounter in a single day. Devotionals, Bible, social media, radio, work, school, family, television, news, salesclerk, commercials, sports networks, video games, and more. How many stories swirl around you?
If you’re very brave, reach beneath them, under the surface where the truth lies. Are they filled with nourishment, or are you about to be taken for a ride?
One of the greatest ministries we have as Christians is one of the simplest. God calls us to tell our story. We are our Father’s children. His story is our family business. Even the most tongue-tied among us has access to the Holy Spirit and can tell a five-sentence truth with a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Most of us have original stories of God’s work in our lives. Find a thousand ways to tell yours until you discover the way that’s organic to you. Write it. Recite it. Record it. Film it. Paint it. Build it. Act it out. Tell one person or tell a thousand. Every telling counts.
If you aren’t ready to tell your story, learn a Bible story and tell it. As we teach our children the stories of Jesus, have them tell them back to us. Host storytelling nights at your church, in your home, at senior centers, or camps, or schools.
Or learn another Christian’s story – a martyr, hymn-writer, persecuted believer, or person of great faith and tell that.
If you’re a born storyteller, well, we need you now more than ever, loved one. You are on the front lines of this light vs darkness warfare. Tell your story whatever it takes and teach others to tell theirs, too.
Support the storytellers in the Body of Christ. Encourage them, help them develop their gifts, create venues for them to shine. Each story full of light is a flare in the darkness reminding our enemy that greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. We’re on to his tricks and we are armed with truth. There’s life-giving milk in our cow.
Once upon a time, there was a God who loved the world . . . and still does. Let me tell you a story about Him, loved ones, a story that feeds your soul.
— Lori Roeleveld (@lorisroeleveld) August 3, 2017