In the name of professional development, I decided to enroll in the Story Skills Workshop offered by Akimbo. The focus of my business is all about storytelling and the workshop was on sale, so I figured why not?
Yesterday’s prompt asked us to choose a story and apply the three principles of storytelling. Decided to share my response with you guys here:
I learned how to read when I about two years old. The first book I picked up and decided to read on my own was the Bible. I remember the excitement that I felt when I read the words “In the beginning”, the thrill of being able to know for myself that these were truly the words printed on the page and not just the way every story begins. This was the first time I didn’t have to rely on anyone else to unlock the worlds hidden between the pages of the books I so wanted to read.
School helped me to recognize letters, form words and sentences, bend them to my will and shape them into stories, poems, research papers, and the like. Church helped me take the words in the Bible and uncover meaning, and purpose, and instruction, but failed to give me genuine context. So I lived a warped version of what I felt “truth” was.
Fast forward 25 years, a marriage, and one child later and I am sitting with the very first book I’ve ever read opened in my lap. My eyes and ears, all too familiar with its pages, many passages pressed into my memory, ready to be recalled word-for-word at any momen. Somehow, though, this familiar friend was now something foreign – not in a frightening way, but in a way that invited me into another side of the story. The side that church, at least the church I went to anyway, forgot to tell.
I tasked myself with one mission: hear this book out on its own terms, in its own context. Not what my parents told me, not what my church told me, not through my own personal lens that I read through. I went back to the story that opened my eyes to the wonderful world of reading with an open mind, open heart, and fresh perspective. I went back to the ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages that it was written in. I knew our foreign English tongue could not do justice to the true essence of what these ancients wanted to communicate.
I allowed myself to become a tourist in the stories of the Bible, doing the diligence of looking up photos, researching cultural practices, and figuring out what the people of that time continued to shout into the future, so powerfully that its presence is still so palpable, even thousands of years later. What I thought I would see is a portrait of the God I always knew: stern, crazy, erratic, sometimes cruel, with a sprinkle of care here and there. What I found was as astounding as it was beautiful.
When I had the humility to become a tourist, to stop and look again, and to honor the cultures these rich stories were set in, here is what I found and how these principles applied:
Engage the Audience:
The story opens with the all-power Ruler of Everything stepping into darkness and creating a place where human creatures would serve as His representatives. They are given agency and are invited to co-rule with the Creator and be conduits of blessing to everything around them (whereas the mythologies of the surrounding cultures of that time have gods that create humans to serve them, to be eaten by them, etc).
Show the Challenge:
The humans decide to use their agency to make choices of good/bad on their own instead of trusting in the Creator, thus sending them spiraling into patterns of chaos, bloodshed, and failure. Since the failure occurred through a human, it has to be repaired by a human, but none of the human agents in the stories – even the best of them – stand up to the test.
Show the Change:
A human appears that is able to do what no other human has been able to accomplish. This human is able to reconcile all of the chaos in an act of ultimate sacrifice. All the humans that come afterward are invited to leave the chaos, patterned back at the very beginning of the story, and step into the role that was originally carved out for them.
I grew up with the Bible as a rule book, a guide for morality and telling me right from wrong. As I got older, I found that it couldn’t serve me in that capacity. So instead of throwing the tool away, I learned how to actually use it, and was able to uncover the love story laying underneath. The literary design of the book itself is incredible, and understanding the way it was put together illuminated the way I look at all stories. For the second time in my life, the Bible unlocked a new world of reading for me.