[On International Women’s Day – may all women be blessed to tell their own stories]:
We think we tell stories, but stories often tell us, tell us to love or hate, to see or be seen. Often, too often, stories saddle us, ride us, whip us onward, tell us what to do, and we do it without questioning. The task of learning to be free requires learning to hear them, to question them, to pause and hear silence, to name them, and then become a story-teller.
– Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby
[A reminder of the spiritual potential in poetry and stories – and a recommendation for anyone looking for a prayer guide as we begin the season of Ordinary Time]:
Indeed, many of us might include a poet or an author, whether dead or living, among our spiritual mentors. On a quiet evening, curled up with a good story, we have encountered the memorable character, the articulate phrase, the evocative image, the small suggestion, the smuggled truth, the shattering epiphany, which changed us, and we weren’t even looking to be
changed. It enriched our lives, and we didn’t even know our own poverty. We were not the same people afterward.
Sarah Arthur, At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time
So I asked my mentor, “What do you mean white people don’t believe the Bible?”
He said, “Well, you don’t know those stories. You always have to check the book. They don’t live in your gut. I am Gix’an.* Stories that are important to me and to my people, we know them in our gut. We can take them with us anywhere. They inform the way we live. After you read one of your stories, you close the book and leave it on a shelf. The stories don’t touch your life at all.”
I began to slowly learn how we could let the stories of the Bible decolonize our community.
– Jodi Spargur, from “Decolonizing the Gospel” in Geez
*The Gix’an (or Gitxsan) people are an Indigenous people that live in the interior of BC.
And if, in the process, we decide to tell stories, then, like the preacher as peddler, we may tell stories about ourselves as well as about other people but not, for the most part, our real stories, not stories about what lies beneath all our other problems, which is the problem of being human, the problem of trying to hold fast somehow to Christ when much of the time, both in ourselves and in our world, it is as if Christ had never existed.
Because all peddlers of God’s word have that in common, I think: they tell what costs them least to tell and what will gain them most; and to tell the story of who we really are, and of the battle between light and dark, between belief and unbelief, between sin and grace that is waged within us all, costs plenty and may not gain us anything, we’re afraid, but an uneasy silence and fishy stare.
– Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember