I’m not a good story-teller. But I’d like to be. Stories, well told, are powerful. They have a way of drawing you in. They call to you, perhaps some hidden part of you that you’re normally too busy to notice or pay any attention to. They reach deeper into you than just what you’re thinking. Sometimes after a good story you come away and can’t say exactly what you liked about it, but also don’t feel the need to do so. Stories delight us. They call us to action without saying so. They teach us without giving any assignment. And the best ones call us to be more ourselves than we thought we could be.
Now, to be a good story-teller doesn’t require any academic degree. You don’t need a formal education, so to speak, to tell stories. But you do need an education. That is, you need to be drawn in and led along. So, to tell good stories, you need good stories. You need to hear good stories, read good stories, and pay attention to the world around you—for the Lord is writing your good story as we speak.
When I say that I’m not a good story-teller it’s because, too often, I get caught up in the rush of things: getting things done, checking off my list, skimming the facts, and knowing just what’s needed. But stories—though built upon facts and things that are done (or left undone)—are more than what you get in cliffs notes or Wikipedia. Stories have color and shape, texture and taste. They sit for just a minute as the setting sun turns from its reddish orange to its pinkish purple. Sometimes life doesn’t let you sit there—but that, too, is a story.
It’s not the pace of life, necessarily, that fights against the story; it’s the inability to reflect or think or even pray while it’s all going on. And that is what a classical education wants to instill—perhaps more than anything else. An ability to reflect on the realities of life—both in its speed and calm—through the thoughtful perception of story.
At Concordia Academy we want to form story-tellers. Some of those story-tellers may go on to be preachers. Some may be barbers. No matter what the vocation to which our Lord calls, everyone likes a good story. To be able to tell these stories, whatever the Lord may have in store, will require a steady diet of good stories. That will be the pride of this school. Whether it’s the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf or Plato’s Dialogues, Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow or Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings; whether pagan or Christian; the story will teach us to tell our own story. And the better the story going in, the better the story that comes out.
I truly believe that what we need in this world are better stories. As you’ve likely come to know, there are plenty of bad stories. There are stories that lead to darkness, not light; or to evil, rather than the good. In a world increasingly marked by ugly stories, let us fill them with the beautiful. The story that will guide our reception of all stories is the story of all stories: the story of Christ.
Now, don’t get upset about me calling the person and work of Christ “a story.” Yes, there are facts (doctrines) that are vitally important. And yes, there are very good and true morals that must be taught. But when it comes down to it, the way that our Lord desired for us to know Him wasn’t through a set of propositions. It was through a story. It was the story of creation…and the fall. It was the story of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses…and then Joshua. Ultimately, of course, all of this—real as it was—is a shadow of the true story of Jesus Christ. It’s His story—from the conception by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary to His birth in a manger, His being lost in Jerusalem, His preaching, teaching, calling disciples, casting out demons, dining with Pharisees, weeping with Mary and Martha, overturning tables, suffering, dying, rising, and ascending. And here’s the kicker: He calls us into His story—or, you might say, His story is for us and our story, that we might be for Him and participate in His story. Every other story—from Socrates to Milton to the story of chemical engineering (there’s got to be a story there!)—is a reflection of and an invitation to this story of Christ. “He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things” (Eph 4:10).
We at Concordia Academy will give these stories to our students in order to delight their souls in what’s true and good and beautiful. Thereby we hope to lead them to find their own story as another reflection of Christ and His story. And in so doing, send them with their story as an invitation to others that they too might share in His story.