As I get older I have a deepening appreciation for stories. One of my favorite Bible stories is the one of Jesus walking on water (Matt. 14:22-33). There’s a picture of this story in my office, and I think about it every day. The unnamed artist has frozen the scene with the winds and waves rocking the boat, the storm at the peak of fury. Most of the disciples on the small fishing boat are hunched over in fear; a few reach out with their arms, pleading for rescue. A short distance away from the windswept boat is the ghost-like figure of Jesus walking on the water with the command, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” This picture reminds me of the overarching story of Jesus’ redemption and his rescue of the fearful disciples. But it also makes me think about the 12 individual stories of those disciples on the boat. Each of their stories points back to the “glory story” of Jesus Christ.
The book of Genesis begins with the first story ever told, the story of creation: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). Humans were created within this story, and to this day we continue to be storytellers. A typical day is filled with stories from family members, friends, and colleagues. My kids tell me stories about their soccer games on the playground and the ongoing dramas of middle school. At work, over a cup of coffee, a colleague tells me stories about his newborn twin boys. It has been suggested that we live in stories the way a fish lives in water. We breathe them in through listening and breathe them out through telling our own.
Stories connect us with others; they engage our whole being. At a foundational level, stories fill us with insight and understanding. Like DNA, the basic building blocks of the human body, stories provide us with unique points of view. Everyone has stories to tell because we all share life experiences. By telling our own stories and listening to the stories of others, we begin to understand who we are. Additionally, we learn from listening to the stories of others how to navigate life. Through their stories, my grandfather and parents have poured into my life the themes of quiet determination and commitment.
Of course, there are broken stories in our broken world. As individuals and families, our stories will always be incomplete as we struggle daily with the effects of sin, such as challenging relationships with spouses or kids, uncertainty within the job market, struggles with addiction. Like the disciples in the story of Jesus walking on the water, we are still in the boat. Cowering in fear. Reaching out for help.
“Community,” says Daniel Taylor in his book The Healing Power of Stories, “offers us our single best hope for healing broken stories.” That community centers on the redeeming and rescuing story of Jesus Christ. When we are rooted in a relationship with Jesus Christ, we can offer our broken stories as a humble sacrifice. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught” (Col. 2:6-7).
That picture in my office reminds me that Jesus is coming toward the boat, that he seeks to use our broken stories. In a world that continues to fragment, Jesus weaves together our individual stories—whatever the winds and waves in our lives—into his overarching story.