Joel McKerrow | 23 Mar 2023
What Story Taught Me About God
As a storywriter and as a storyteller, I have thought a lot about the impact of stories upon us. The stories we read, or watch, or listen to and also, the stories we tell.
Lets start with the stories we tell …
For many years I was at a theological college running a course in identity formation for emerging adults. At the start of each year we would ask the students to share their story. The good, the bad and the ugly of it. Two things always struck me through this time:
The first, how sad it was that out of the many who went through the course, there were about 90% of the students who never had a safe enough space where they felt like they could actually share the entirety of their story. And so many of these students had grown up going to church, youth group, bible studies, etc., and not once had they been given an opportunity to share their story. What a horrific shame.
The second was how much these students struggled when we asked them to tell us about the events of their lives, but rather to tell us how these events had shaped them to be who they are. There is a vast difference between the two. One is the sharing of plot. The other is the sharing of story. Plot and story. They are two different things.
A plot is the occurrence of events, but a story is the way those events are construed. It is the construction of something meaningful out of the chaos of existence. We are storytelling beings, so we do not just go through an event; we interpret that event through our perspective. We are shaped then, not as much by the event, but by the stories that we tell about that event. What I am saying is, our lives break not on the back of what has occurred, but on the way we talk about what has occurred. That is, story is our way of shaping our reality around what is important to us, whether what is important to us is good for us or not.
And what about the stories that we watch, read or listen to …
Well, all of these stories begin with a writer who takes the haphazard events of life and draws them together into something of meaning. As we do with the clouds above us, we take the chaos of clouds and find shapes within them. The writer crafts the chaos into a character. They take the disorder and order it into something so very satisfying. They take the disarray, and they give it a name.
A writer's job is to point up to the clouds and to say, ’Do you see the dinosaur?’
Or, more accurately, a writer points at what appears as chaos in our world and says, ’Do you see …’
Or perhaps what they actually do is point straight at you, at what lies on the inside, and they say, ‘Do you see …?’
All this to say that a writer reveals the patterns that have been hidden or ignored for too long by us all. They reveal the arrangement within the confusion. The composition within the compost. Ha. Ok, that's taking it too far.
If God is anything, God is a child staring up at the sky and pointing out the rhinoceros …
’Do you see?’ she asks, ‘Do you see?’