CHRISTIAN VIEWPOINT: John Dempster reflects on how sharing stories can lead to new discoveries
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This year is to be Scotland’s “Year of Stories” when VisitScotland will emphasise the stories we’ve told and are telling as Scots – from traditional tales to Sir Walter Scott, to the Beano, to the “new stories” we tell today.
Stories which entertain, inspire, uplift, provoke, awe, touch our spirits.
The truth about Scotland today includes all our personal stories woven together in a tapestry of life. But I doubt if, as the Scottish people, we have a shared vision of Scotland’s identity and future: our views differ according to our backgrounds and political views.
As we discussed the “Year of Stories” theme from a Christian perspective, my friend Iain remembered a story from the Bible.
Two people, walking out from Jerusalem to their village nearby, were pouring out to the stranger who joined them their stories of sadness and despair following the death of Jesus.
Their fellow traveller showed them from the Old Testament that their story was part of a much bigger one which included theirs, but put it in an unimagined context which brought joy and hope. And then the companions realised that the Stranger was none other than risen-from-the-dead Jesus.
Not all our stories find ready listeners.
Some we are afraid to share, even with ourselves. Christians believe the same Stranger travels with us as we pray the stories we hesitate to share, listening with compassion, not judgement. And, in listening, the Stranger helps us see a bigger story of which our faltering narrative is part.
Perhaps the big story we’ve known places us as human beings alone in a universe which science alone explains.
The Stranger opens our eyes. We glimpse an immense God who is present in each molecule, not a force or power, but a relationship holding everything together, a relationship in which we and our stories come home.
Say “Yes!” to this relationship, and we realise on our better days that each one of us in divided Scotland is precious, holy. And as we continue dialoguing with the Stranger we recognise him as the living Jesus.
Iain’s words about the travellers’ small stories having their place within the big story, with nothing wasted, impressed me.
Poet Sally Read says, looking back on her atheist years before she converted to Catholicism: “Our past is a part of ourselves, the necessary and unique foundation upon which we lay the hopeful strata of our transformations.”
It’s hoped “new stories” will be heard in Scotland in the coming year.
I know that in 2022 many more Scots will discover in their questioning a Stranger walking with them, no tourist this, but someone come to stay.