The power of story

My “Papaw” while sitting on his front porch telling one of his amazing stories (Photo by: Bruce Denton 1976).

“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:11 ESV).

“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms” (Muriel Rukeyser).

“God made man because he loves stories” (Rabbi Nachman).

“Tell us another story, Papaw.” I begged my maternal grandfather, Walter Dillon, while sitting with him on the front porch of his century old farm house. I’d brought some high school buddies of mine down to the old farm to do some hiking in the woods and wanted them to hear some of my grandfather’s stories before we left.

“Which one you wanna hear?” He asked. Our family had heard him tell his stories so often and so well that we all had a kind of internal library card catalog of them. In fact, if he tried telling an amended version of a well known story, the grandkids would correct him.

“You left out the best part, Papaw!” They’d shout, if he skipped over some minute detail.

My grandfather quit school and started working in the coal mines when he was 13 years old. He wasn’t well educated. He dug coal for 30 years. Worked a farm. Drove a school bus for 20 years. All he knew was hard work… and story-telling. He was the best storyteller I’ve ever known.

I spent a lot of time with my grandfather. My father died when I was eight, so I often spent summers living and working with my Papaw on his 70 acre farm. I learned many things from him. I learned how to be a man and how to work hard because these were things he valued. But looking back, perhaps the most important thing I learned from him was the power of story and the art of telling one well.

I think my love of story and of story telling has had a lot to do with God’s calling on my life to be a preacher of the gospel. Reading and studying God’s Word, the ancient stories come alive for me. My supreme joy is to share biblical stories with others, so that they come alive for them too.

I think one of the greatest gifts you can give someone is the gift of telling them your story. Certainly equal to that would be to ask them to tell theirs too. And if they are willing to tell it, listen to it well. Give them the gift of laughing or crying, raising your eyebrows with surprise or trembling with fear when their story calls for it. Applaud their story and therefore their life by listening and allowing yourself to be moved by its telling.

There is power in telling your story and in listening to those of others. It builds a relational bridge of trust that can bear the weight of truth. This is especially so for those of us who have had our stories intersected by the greatest story ever told, which is the story of love and redemption revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the book of Revelation, John reported that the saints had overcome the power of Satan “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” In other words, there is evil-conquering power in the combination of the gospel and our testimony, our story.

Our stories are really just supporting threads to the epic tapestry of God’s story. Our testimonies are like trophies of God’s grace sitting on heaven’s mantle, declaring the glory of how He redeemed us and is conforming us into the image of His Son.

There’s power in the testimony of how God’s story intersected ours.

Who are you sharing stories with?

One comment on “The power of story

  1. Barry

    We all loved Papaw’s stories – thanks for illuminating my day with that memory.

    Love the upgraded look to the site, by the way!


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