Homo Narrans, Story-Telling Man

As I sorted through some papers, I came upon a thank you card from a group that had invited me to speak five times at a retreat last year. I remembered that I had done much research reading to present 15 major themes.

“Thank you,” the card said, “for all your stories that will help us grow.”

Hmm, not a word about any of the 15 themes I had worked so hard to develop and present. I remembered telling a couple of personal experience anecdotes to illustrate each theme.

Jack the Story Teller with his Indonesian interpreters

We love stories. Our lives are full of them. We enjoy telling them, and listening to other people spin yarns, often responding with a similar tale from our own experience. It is through listening to their personal stories that we get to know other people. It is through remembering and telling our stories we gain a deeper understanding into ourselves.

We human beings are called homo sapiens, “Thinking Man,” to set us apart from other species. It is not our opposable thumb that makes us different from animals, all the great apes have them, nor the ability to remember, elephants do that, or the ability to communicate information through sound waves, dolphins and whales do that too.

We, on the other hand, live through complex experiences, we think about them and then  we share these experiences with others. We tell them our stories. People are story generators, we live stories and we listen to stories and we tell stories. Some authors and poets argue that home sapiens could more properly be called homo narrans, Story-Telling Man.

We can even make up stories that haven’t happened and tell them to entertain, to inspire, and to teach. We day dream, imagine, and envision things and situations that don’t exist and work to turn them into reality. Others are inspired when they hear our story.

A Yiddish question: “Why did God create people?” Answer: “Because He loves stories.” God made us in His image. Just as He loves stories, so we love them. Jesus told parables throughout His teaching ministry. Prophets told stories to warn people away from sin, or like Jonah, lived their stories. The whole Bible is a vast collection of interrelated narratives, making a complete story of God and his relationship to mankind.

We often tell the story of our conversion. We testify how God drew us to Himself, led us to repent, and filled us with new life. We call these stories testimonies. Testimonies have the power to defeat Satan. Revelation 12:11 tells the future story of the final fall of Satan and judgement on him. The passage describes the martyrs who defeated him,

“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.”

The power to overcome Satan lay in two things, the fact that Jesus died to pay the penalty of sin, and the fact that the martyrs told the story of how Jesus had saved them from sin. Isn’t it significant that the sacrificial death of God’s Son is mentioned in the same sentence as people telling the story of what this sacrifice meant to them? When we tell others the stories of what God has done for us, we defeat Satan.

Wow! Talk about powerful!

So, how about it? Beyond your conversion story, do any of you have a list of God stories you tell? Stories of what God has done for you, your family, and your situation?

Tell me about them.