This may sound odd. We often contrast facts and stories; facts are about truth, and stories are about opinions or perspective. Inspired by Stanley Hauerwas, amongst others, I want to suggest that truth is conveyed by stories that connect the facts. Facts alone tell us little; stories that contradict facts are false; but truth is found when facts are connected and given meaning by a story that makes sense.
Think about it. To describe who you are, the truth about yourself, to a stranger, you may tell them facts about yourself, but these make sense because they are connected to form a story about you. In science, the most persuasive theories are not just lists of results from experiments, but descriptions of the world that link these results together and give them meaning. Evolution is a prime example of a theory that gains it’s persuasive power not least because it is a compelling story of the way things are.
No wonder God revealed Himself through story. The Bible is essentially a narrative of God’s creation and relation with humanity. And still today, as individuals we get to know God through our own stories with Him. These aren’t just ‘opinions’ or metaphors with a ‘deeper meaning’ underneath. These stories are descriptions of reality and the way things are. They don’t allow us to ignore factual evidence, but they recognise that facts alone can’t convey the whole truth.
Who is God and how do I know Him? I can only answer that with story. So I’ve tried writing mine short enough to print, put in my wallet, and share with people. Here it is…
If God is real, not made up, then we don’t decide what he is like, we discover.
Life is not always easy. When I was 6 years old my Dad, a solicitor, had a nervous breakdown and stopped working. That left a family of five (including Mum and 2 older sisters) with no income for 3 months before health insurance and benefits kicked in. When I was 15 years old a close school friend of mine died suddenly – he was there on Monday and dead by Tuesday. For a while after this I took anti-depressants to help me sleep. To date my Mum has had cancer 5 times and numerous operations, not to mention recently being seriously weak for months following complications from so much surgery.
Who have I discovered God to be? He is a provider. During those 3 months after Dad’s breakdown we had no income and no food. We prayed for God’s help. Boxes of food were left on our doorstep and money was posted under our door.
He is faithful. After my friend died I was deeply sad and angry with God. But even in that time, when I was at my lowest, it was in God I found peace and comfort. He draws close in the hard times, even if we don’t understand them.
He is a healer. Every time my Mum has had cancer it has either disappeared or been easily removed when we have prayed. When my Mum was seriously weak she spent most of her day in bed, couldn’t lift even a saucepan, couldn’t wear make-up as it brought a terrible infection. After a month of this I was praying and felt the presence of the Holy Spirit – God with me. I began to cry as I thought about Mum and I was asking in my heart for her to be healed. After a time I felt a sense of peace and that it was done. I called Mum the next morning and she was out of bed, had been for a bike ride, was wearing make-up, and was back to health.
God is provider, faithful and able to heal.
He is our good Father. I don’t know why He doesn’t always do what I want Him to, but I have a choice to trust God as He is, or reject Him because He isn’t exactly like I think He should be. I choose to trust Him and have found He is better than I could ever make up. God doesn’t sit at a distance, but lived as one of us in Jesus. He knows what it is to suffer, to be rejected and even to die. In fact, He died for us, to pay the price so that we can be forgiven from everything we have ever done wrong that keeps us from coming close to Him. Because of Jesus we can know God as our Father if we come to Him. I’ve discovered a Father who loves me, has a plan for me, is with me in every situation, who does incredible things I could never make up, and who strengthens me and gives peace when things are hard.
This idea came from an amazing church I was privileged to be a part of at University – Grace Church Nottingham – and it certainly is something you can try at home!
Who do you think God is and how have you come to know Him? What is your story? Why not share some of it by leaving a comment?