When It Feels Risky to Talk About God
I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!” And he said, “Go and say to this people: ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’
All week long at The High Calling, we have been talking about storytelling in the workplace. At the beginning of the week, we looked at Jesus’ explanation of parables. On the surface, it appears Jesus told stories so people wouldn’t understand. Instead, scholars point out Jesus told stories knowing full well his audience’s expectations would prevent them from hearing.
Jesus’ explanation that a good story will not be universally understood springs from Isaiah 6.
Honestly, this is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. Isaiah’s imagery sparks my imagination. I want to see God’s robe that is so ornate and huge that its hem alone fills the entire temple. I want to see the six-winged seraphs. I want to hear their call. I want to be healed by a burning lump of coal against my lips.
Isn’t this what a good story does? Whether factual or allegorical, a good story sticks in our imaginations so we can’t let it go.
And yet, Isaiah’s story, like the parables of Jesus, gives me trouble. Because Hebrew tradition tends to blur cause and effect, God seems to be telling Isaiah to preach in such a way that people cannot understand him. Instead, say the biblical scholars, God is challenging Isaiah to keep preaching even though the people will not understand.
Isaiah asks, “How long?” in verse 11, and God reveals his grace toward our stubborn hearts. Keep telling my stories, God says, until the cities fall into ruin and the houses are all empty.
It is easy to get tired of being a small voice crying out in the wilderness of your workplace or your local community. We should not expect God to let us off the hook.
On bad days, we will cry out like Isaiah, “How long until people get it?”
And God’s answer will ring a challenge back at us.
“Keep telling my stories until the cities are all empty and the businesses are all boarded up.”
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What stories can you share about God’s work in your daily life? Do you know anyone who needs to hear these stories? How will your stories capture the imagination of those who hear them?
PRAYER: God, it feels risky to share the story of your work in my life. Help me serve you with the same perseverance that Isaiah served. Help me also know how to share stories in this age of social media. When I share about you on Facebook, it can feel shallow and trite, as if I’m endorsing a good movie I saw or a good restaurant I visited.
Yet I don’t want to be afraid of sharing about you just because others won’t understand what I’m trying to say. Give me the strength to keep sharing and sharing and sharing in every manner possible—from Facebook to the water cooler, from Twitter to the dinner table. Give me also the wisdom to share in ways that capture the imaginations of those who are listening for your spirit.
Most of all, Lord, create in me a pure heart. Despite my sin, let your story be expressed through your people with grace and truth, so that the world will turn to you and be healed. Amen.
The Power of Storytelling
A note from our managing editor: When my children were young, telling stories at bedtime was always one the best parts of our day. I usually read stories straight from a book. But, my husband made up stories to tell the children and those stories continue to show up in conversations, even now that our children are adults. Stories are powerful and we may tend to forget that as we grow up and move on into board rooms and classrooms and carpool lanes.
What can a story provide in a board meeting that facts and figures alone can't accomplish? How has storytelling improved relationships among coworkers, especially coworkers whose faith is different from mine? What are some of the best stories ever told in the workplace and why did it make a difference? Why is it important to be able to tell a good story and what is a good story anyway? In this series at The High Calling, we take a look at The Power of Storytelling in the workplace. Pull up a chair and join us in the conversation.