While in Guatemala this summer I worked with 7 other interns. Together our team of 8 trained and then dispersed all over the country to our different sites for the seven weeks. I met a diverse group of people, some older and some younger, but all interesting.
Two guys on our team were best friends from Dallas–who were making a promotional video for the organization we were working for. One, laid-back, picky, and still a gentleman. The other–outspoken, anxious to see what the summer would hold. He always spoke of his passion for making movies; they were his way of telling people’s stories. He talked constantly about how much he liked to listen to and tell stories. However, as I watched him interact with our team members, some of the missionaries, and with the Guatemalan people, I realized just how much he thrived off of telling stories. It seemed as if he was so anxious to tell these stories that he never really listened to them.
One day during our first week of orientation our group of inters began talking about living out “real Christianity.” One of the best friends (the laid back southern gentleman) spoke about his time in high-school. He talked about how he changed from being a “fake Christian” to someone who truly followed and loved Christ. The other (the storyteller–who had just graduated from high school before coming to Guatemala) said that once he learned about Christ and his love, he couldn’t stop carrying around his Bible in the back pocket of his jeans.
“Living in Dallas, it can be easy to get mugged. I just hope if someone does ever try-that they get a hold of this,” he said as he pulled out the proudly well-worn leather-bonded book with wrinkled pages, “I just hope they realize how much it’s been used, and they read it..because they need it more than I do!”
He waved the book side-to-side with a small smirk on his face, chuckled, and put in back into his pocket, which just so happened to be as worn out as the book; it was coming loose at the seams and beginning to fade and preparing to fall off.
I think about how much more fun it is to wave that book around. I talk about how great the story inside the cover is and how much “I love to tell the story”. I think about how much I wave the story around: maybe in some people’s faces; am I showing off, or hitting them on the side of the head trying to make a point? I spend so much time waving the book around that I begin to forget the story inside. In forgetting the story inside this book, I begin to forget the story inside of me–I forget that I am but one, tiny character, wrapped up together with all the sinner saints of history, time, space, creation…and the Creator.
I forget the Creator’s story.
I work so hard at memorizing how good I look when I tell the story, that I fail to explore the story as it leaps from the pages and encompasses every. second. of. life.
We do not read and listen to the story together. We do not imagine the scenes and images in our head, create voices and personalities for the characters; we instead stick the story in the back pocket of our jeans. Ready to pull it out and wave it around when necessary.
My professor of my Story and Worship class told us, “We have lost the art of hearing the story out loud. We do not memorize it and keep it in our hearts; we shove it in our back pockets. It doesn’t work on us that way. Even though it’s close to us, it just wears out our jeans.”
The story was written, is being written, and will continue to be written in order that we may seek to hear the work of God–over & over again. It works on us, changes, shapes, molds us, and places us in the larger context of God’s [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] work of creation and continual redemption of this creation–reconciling all things to himself.
If we just leave the story in our back pockets, it bends, tears, and fades away from our memory..and pulls the seams from our pants; we are left with no pants, no story–no identity.
What would happen, what could we look like–or clothe ourselves in–if we took off those worn-out jeans, and began to read the story to one another again, to listen attentively for the Word of God, to as, “Who are you God?” and to wonder who God has created us to be..?