I still remember the class, a Grade 12 history class. Up until that time I was a very quiet, shy and reserved student when it came to participation. In fact, my French class that same year, I never said an oral French word the entire year and my teacher couldn’t fail me because I scored 100% in my written work.
That particular history class, there was a requirement for an oral presentation on a part of history that I choose to tell. I believe the class was about storytelling. Being ready, and by that, I knew my material well enough not to use notes and since I knew there was no podium to hide behind, when it was my turn, I went up front without them. I believe my topic was Roman soldiers – character, calling, purpose.
I was so nervous, but somewhere in my presentation I stopped seeing the class in front of me. Somewhere the story became my story, my thoughts and feelings, my experiences in what I had learned. At some point I realized my arms were flailing, my face was in contortion, my voice was embellishing. The very last thing I remembered was the stunned look of each class member who had never seen me like this before and never knew I had this inside of me.
That was the same year that my Christian Ed pastor invited me as a member of a three-part leadership team of the youth/young adult group. It was the same year I started to learn how to preach. It was the same year that the art of storytelling was how I knew I could win the hearts and minds of my audience. It was the first year I felt what power was like and it came to me in the form of a story.
Since then, I flirted with that power and for the last several years I have given that power to God. My stories are now about His glory and honour and they always show His grace and strength. It’s different, but it is better.
My youth group today love my stories. With chaos galore in the classroom, all I have to do is share a relative story about the subject at hand and how God revealed Himself to me through that experience and the class goes silent. I still remember an Easter service where the English congregation joined with the Arabic congregation. Us two pastors interspersed the message with English and Arabic portions. The youths were getting antsy and I knew a story needed to happen – and so it came – God came down with the story – you could hear a pin drop in the room. Lives changed.
I am writing this today because I expect a whole slew of new stories this year coming from my journey on this road that God has charted for me. These same type of stories told by generations of God-followers of how God showed up. How we did not work for such a blessing – it was a gift! God gave it to us smiling, delighting.
I do not trust in manipulation, coercion or bribery. I do not trust in the power of suggestion. I trust in God’s Word not returning empty but accomplishing the change it designed to do. It was God Himself who saved me.
So now it is my turn to tell my generation and the one following and to parade God’s praise – we thank God by name over and over.