When I listen to someone tell a story about something that is important or funny or interesting, at my best, I try to also listen to what is behind the story, what we sometimes call the “back story.” The back story is what makes it funny or important or interesting to this particular person. I do this because anytime we tell a story, we are not just talking about facts or figures or sights or sounds…we are telling another something about us.
Let me tell you what I mean… I live with someone who loves to point out different things to me on walks in the woods. Often this person will also have a story or some interesting fact to tell. Upon seeing certain flower, she will say, “Did you know you can’t pick Lady Slippers in Minnesota because it’s the state flower?” Or when a bluebird flies by, “Do you remember that day a whole bunch of bluebirds were sitting on the wires outside the house?” Now I need to say that I love and cherish this person…. But sometimes I’m not at my best…just sayin’.
Recently I’ve been reflecting on this, because on our vacation, we take a lot of walks. I’m reminding myself to listen to what is underneath the story my beloved is sharing. And what I’m coming up with is that it has something to do with wanting to share the beauty of the world with me… and something also about helping me to understand what is important to her. It’s also a subtle way of acknowledging a little needed space in our relationship. Like young roots, love sometimes needs space to stretch into. And so it’s an invitation to stretch myself in order to grow closer to her.
Listening carefully to the stories that others have to tell, even stories that acknowledge our differences, can be an important way we strengthen our relationships. Stories are often an invitation to stretch into a deeper relationship. This is one way to consider the story of our faith that God is telling through the scriptures. We are being invited to listen not only to the stories about big fish and stables and crosses and wind and fire, but also to the back story…what God is trying to tell us about God’s self. God will always find a way to reach out to us… to be with us… to inspire and encourage us in the story of our lives and beyond.