A Good Story

Santha Yinger - Mental Health & Wellness Ministry Lead | Real Life Ministries - Post Falls, ID

I was trimming a jungle of tomato vines on a beautiful summer day when I found myself thinking about the parable of the lost son in Luke 15. As I pulled vines, searching for fruit, my thoughts drifted to the father in that story. I began to wonder if he saw his son’s request coming? And if so, how he must have felt when his son asked him for ‘his’ part of the inheritance? I tried to picture the time of day and circumstance surrounding this request. Had it come after morning chores? Family dinner? Was their land ripe for harvest? What did the air smell like?

A few weekends previously, I had led a group of our young adult gals through a Discipleshift as they prepared to lead small groups this fall. During our small group time, we had someone tell the story of the lost son from memory, and then as a group we rebuilt the story and then read through it from our Bibles and Bible Apps. ☺ This process gave us the opportunity to hear, rehearse, and read the story. Each of us had the opportunity then to share how we related to any of the characters in the parable. What a time of rich sharing as we let our response to God’s word lead our conversation!

We are people who love stories; we were made to hear and be a part of stories. Often, we have a visceral response when people tell us a story and we physically lean-in toward the storyteller out of curiosity. Pictures and images, perhaps even memories, smells, and sounds might float through our brain as we engage in active listening. We cheer for underdogs and boo at villains. Stories shape us, impacting our view of what could be and should be. A good story will challenge the way we see the world and how we think the world should work.

Following Jesus means we are choosing to enter into HIS story. We are learning who he is and becoming like him in character and values, and ultimately, we are joining him where he is at work in our world. This requires transformation and change. A change in how we see the world and how it works, who we think we are and God is, how we see others, and what determines what is good, right, and flourishing or what is harmful and evil. Those are deep transformative processes. As disciples and disciple-makers following Jesus we get to help each other in this beautiful, messy process.

This kind of change takes relationships with people who model for us how God can change us – where our transparency is met with empathy and grace. It also requires us to become centered in God’s way, truth, and life. We must exchange our old ways of being and doing, and our values and beliefs, for God’s new ways.

This transformation takes more than just information. One vital way we can help each other engage with God’s word is through the tool of ‘storying’. Hearing the passage told, rebuilding it, reading it, discussing it helps us interact with the Bible in several different ways. Storying is more than just repeating the passage the best you can, storing brings in an element of meditation and rumination. The Bible was written to be meditated on, to be ruminated over, not so we could become the best at bible trivia. It’s meant to go down deep into our hearts, minds, and imaginations. To form our character, our values, to give us a grid to see the world God’s way, to become Jesus’ people.

We have to recognize there is no magic tool or curriculum in disciple-making. But curriculum IS an important part of an intentional leader’s plan and something to think carefully about when wanting a biblical foundation to be laid into the hearts and minds of those we are investing in.

When I am looking at curriculum or crafting discussion questions I think about a few things.

  • What conversation will this spark?
  • How do these questions/passages help people engage with God’s way of how he says life works?
  • What roadblocks, strongholds, or belief systems will this help us address?
  • What trust will be needed for or built through this discussion?
  • How will it help us build relationship with each other and with God?
  • What kinds of responses will this lead us to take after we leave our time together?

My hope is for all of us to engage at the head, heart, and hand levels. This may mean I need to adjust the questions in a curriculum I am using to ensure we cover those three levels.

Learning to use storying as a tool of disciple-making has taught me how engaging with God’s word is not about finding the right answer to fill in a blank with but about letting the richness of truth sink deep into each other’s hearts and minds.

As I continued dealing with the tomatoes, thinking about the father, my mind drifted to each young women in my group, what they shared and which character they related to in the parable. I prayed for each one of them as I snipped vines. And I thought about why I was so drawn to the father in this season of my life. I had shared with the girls I wanted to understand the father better. Someone very near and dear in my life most likely will be making choices like the younger son. I can see it coming. I want to respond like the father. We talked about how God treats each of us, and how this story reminds us that even though God allows us to go our way, he watches for us on the road, runs to embrace us with a robe, sandals, and gives us a family ring upon our return. What is like for us to live into this type of blessing? What is like to prepare to give this blessing to others? By the end of our time together, we loved God even more because of how he loved us, which made us more confident to love others well in our next season of leading and being Jesus followers. It was a good story. It is good to tell, re-tell, read about, talk about, and meditate on it.

Santha Yinger
Mental Health & Wellness Ministry Lead
Real Life Ministries
Post Falls, ID