Stories are powerful. Children are raised on stories. We tell stories as adults to remember. Jesus used stories to illustrate His teachings. I thought as I begin this Engage column, I should begin with a story.
I was raised in a family that was ‘friendly’ with the church. Friendly, in that we were polite and saw that it was good for people. We were occasional C&E visitors. My grandmother was active in her local parish. When I was a child and stayed with my grandparents, my grandmother brought me to church. I remember colouring pictures of Jesus and kids listening to stories.
We moved when I was 12 to a new community and my parents thought they should go to church to meet new people. They went and I watched stories on TV. One frightful Sunday supper, I was told that I was going to the youth group at the church. I literally went kicking and screaming, because I didn’t want to be around “those weird people”. The youth group leader’s grace and patience during that year eventually coaxed me to start talking and getting involved in church…even going Sunday mornings. I became a server – I’m not sure I really knew what I was doing…other than helping the ministers set the table for communion and I had to wear a robe. The rector and I did share a lot of jokes during the hymns.
At 16, there was a new youth retreat in our diocese and the youth leaders really wanted me to go. I verbally said, “yes” and inwardly said, “not a chance…I’ll have the flu that weekend.” The flu didn’t happen and I begrudgingly went – slightly more mature than kicking and screaming. We sang lots, prayed lots, hung out and heard a lot of talks. This wasn’t like church – people looked like me, talked like me and the music was great!
I heard lots of stories from people sharing about how they knew Jesus. I couldn’t relate. Some guy who accepted them, as is, who loved them unconditionally – this was not the stained glass, colouring page Jesus I knew. I was talking with one of the leaders during a break, and I said that this was great…but I wasn’t sure that I could be one of these “Jesus people”. He said that he understood and used to feel the same. The more I learned, the more I realized how similar we were. Like many teens, I was struggling with answering the question “who am I?”. During a sharing time, I was hearing more stories. I felt this ‘knocking’. I thought I was a nut. Someone began reading “behold I stand at the door and knock.” I grabbed a Bible and looked it up and read. That was it! That was my knocking! I have no idea what was happening, but I leapt out of my chair, and said “Jesus is my Lord and Saviour” and sat back down. I couldn’t believe it…I was quiet and tried to stay unnoticed. What happened next? I honestly don’t remember. What I do remember was knowing then for the first time that He loved me just as I was (cue Billy Graham crusade).
Stories are a powerful witness – good, great, bad and ugly. We’ll have more stories to share as Engage grows and develops. What’s your story?