(Continued from Remember me.)
No doubt, we all too often seek to tell our stories or have them told in such a way as to make ourselves heroes (earning the regard of others) or ‘martyrs’ (gaining the pity of others). Yet, we cannot stop telling stories. We are story tellers. The good creator God made us in His image, so we are (as Tolkien has noted) ‘sub-creators’ as a result of the very nature which he gifted to us and called good.
Story telling is an essential part of our purpose as humans. From our very creation our vocation was to name the things God had made. What is naming but the presenting of God’s creation back to Him in story, as an act of worship. As Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann has stated:
The significant fact about life in the garden is that man is to name things. As soon as animals have been created to keep Adam company, God brings them to Adam to see what he will call them. “And whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.” Now, in the Bible a name is infinitely more than a means to distinguish one thing from another. It reveals the very essence of a thing, or rather its essence as God’s gift. To name a thing is to manifest the meaning and value God gave it, to know it as coming from God and to know its place and function within the cosmos created by God.
Furthermore, God has come to us to restore this broken world not simply in lists of rules and principles, but in and through lived story.
Moses told the Children of Israel to continue to tell the story and to act out its essential parts, especially their redemption, year after year in a story telling party…the feast of Passover…so that they would not forget whose they were.
Jesus in his final command to his disciples before the ascension essentially said, “Tell my story.” But it wasn’t just his story; it was their story as well.
As John said it:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (I John 1:1-4, ESV)
We are called to be witnesses to God’s work in our lives–the work that is our participation in joy. This is the word of our testimony…and we must share it. But all too often we do not; either from fear or self-pity or laziness or apathy or pride or some other vice, we fail to fulfill our most basic purpose of telling our true story. We may…and most likely will…do it poorly because it is the story of God’s work of faith in us, and that work remains unfinished. But we are called to tell it again and again none-the-less. It is a sin not to do so.
And so in this Lenten season the church calls us to repent:
For the failure to commend the faith that is in us; Lord have mercy upon us: For we have sinned against you.
God grant that we may share our true stories in the same way we must do everything else, in faith with penitent hearts.
(Next: The Green Martyrdom)