Humans love stories. It’s as if we were made to tell stories and listen to stories. Listening to stories makes our brains respond as if we were actually in the situation. For example, words about smells light up the same part of the brain that that the actual smells do. (The science of storytelling.)
But I was talking with Nehemiah recently and realized that there is a difference between telling stories and telling THE stories.
THE stories are collections of stories that capture who we are, whether we are a family, a tribe, an organization, a movement, a nation or a people. THE stories contain our values. They show what matters from our history. Given the brain research, telling stories of our heros, for example, helps us feel the dangers and the risks and the victories.
When the people of Israel celebrated the Sabbath each week because, in the words of Exodus, God had created the world in six days and rested on the seventh and because, in the words of Deuteronomy, they had been slaves in Egypt and God rescued them, they were retelling core stories. They were experiencing the creation and the exodus. When they built shelters on top of their flat roofs and lived in them for a week, with good food and celebration, they were entering into the story of the forty years in the wilderness.
When we listen to the story of Mary’s angel visit and Joseph’s bad news and the shepherds’ choir, we are resonating with the surprise and dismay and joy. When we “eat this bread and drink this cup” we really do “show the Lord’s death til he comes.”
But if we never tell THE stories, we aren’t passing on the experience, renewing the “us”. We lose THE stories and remember sitcoms.