Monday, November 9, 2015

The Power of Story

Two things reminded me recently about the power of our stories, or in oldskewl church terms, "testimony".

One was a memorial service, and the other a coffee conversation with an older Christian who I really respect.

The memorial was for the aged mother of some good friends of ours. Wendy & I never had the pleasure of meeting her, but we went to the funeral in support of our grieving friends (aided and abetted by the fact that their son is dating our daughter).

A recurring comment throughout the memorial was "the phone calls" that this woman was famous for. Throughout her lifetime, she had made it her mission to pray for people and give them words of encouragement. Even in her later years, despite her growing infirmity, this continued. The phone became her point of contact out of necessity, but the prayers and encouraging words never stopped.

One of the early speakers at the memorial asked "how many here have gotten one of her phone calls?", and easily 90% of those present raised their hands. It was a remarkable testimony. Her story of a lifetime of prayer and encouragement was inspiring.

The other was a private, one-on-one conversation over coffee with a long-time Christian mentor. He is a brilliant analytical thinker, and is quite adept at logical, philosophical and theological discussions.

The topic that we were discussing would produce an instant rabbit trail if I even mention it, but suffice it to say that this topic was causing him a great deal of grief. I'm not sure if he would choose this expression, but I would describe it as "tied up in knots".

We spent a couple of hours over coffee that day, talking and listening back and forth. And towards the end of our time together, I was silently praying a very desperate, "oh God, help!" kind of prayer. And then it hit me.
"Can I tell you about the night I became a believer?"
In some ways, that was a totally ridiculous thing to say. He has known me for years. He has always been the older, wiser mentor. My little testimony story certainly didn't answer any of the questions that were tying him into knots.

And yet, it felt like God was prompting me. So, I simply recounted the events of that night. My story as a teenager, and the first time (despite being raised in a Christian family) that I really "got" that Jesus was real.
(Unlike the apostle Paul, I didn't fall off my donkey because of a light from heaven and the audible voice of God (Acts 9:1-6). However, the night of my surrender to Jesus did feel sorta like being ambushed by the Holy Spirit.)
There is a supernatural element to our faith that goes beyond logical, beyond the rational. That doesn't mean that faith is illogical or irrational -- but faith transcends them both.

I've always resonated with Anselm's famous phrase: "faith seeking understanding". I love learning; I love researching and trying to grapple with issues of faith and life, and how to communicate it to others.

But my faith doesn't rest on how much or how well I understand every nuance. Nobody convinced me with rational arguments. Nobody manoeuvred me into becoming a Christian with logic. My faith rests on an "experience": the night that Jesus knocked me off my donkey. I still don't have "all the answers", but I will always remember the reality of that night.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

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