The stories we tell

What are the stories your family tells, stories that are told when people gather? The stories those who are new will always hear (whether you like it or not!)?

One story my children will inevitably tell any newcomer is about a time “Mom taped a cake to a door.”

I had picked up my three younger children from sports and needed to deliver a cake to a cold weather shelter in the next town (about an hour round trip), before putting dinner on the table and heading to an evening meeting. I had a very narrow window to get over and back. When I pulled up, the person in charge of receiving food had not arrived. After ten minutes I couldn’t wait any longer. I looked around–there was no bag to put it in, but I did have a roll of duck tape which I used to improvise a holder to secure the cake to the shelter door to keep it safe from feet and critters for a few minutes until the supervisor arrived. I hopped back into the car and gave it no further thought. Not so for my children,  who just kept up a chorus of “Mom just taped a cake to a door.” 

I cannot tell you why that story, over so many other experiences, is the one they need to share, or why it is essential someone new must know this, but it does condense some of what shapes our family: 

  • Compassion and service to others
  • Inventiveness and willingness to be seen as silly by others in service of a goal
  • Responsibility and follow through, and, that despite being a priest, Mom doesn’t have all the answers.

In liminal time, the time of in-between, moving from “what has been” to “what is becoming,” questions of meaning and purpose are front and center. Meaning and purpose are distinct, but related, concepts. “Meaning” looks at what has happened and connects it to our highest values (values which are often more easily grasped in stories than explanation). “Purpose” clarifies how we craft something of value, and how we make a difference in the future. Life without meaning descends into despair, without purpose, apathy takes over.

We access meaning primarily through the stories we tell. The Bible, the Book of books central to our faith, has many types of literature, but mostly it is stories, stories that are sometimes repeated, slightly differently, by different writers. (While the facts remain the same, each of my children tell the story of taping a cake to a door differently, emphasizing one particular aspect over another as held in their memory and values.) David was Israel’s greatest king, but his family life was . . . complicated. Paul was an eloquent witness to Jesus, but he didn’t always get along with other disciples.  Those looking for certainty or heroes find this troubling, but telling stores that include human limits and frailties adds depth to our biblical witness, lifting up values that we, too, can to aspire live out, despite our own limitations.

What is a story that your family tells again and again? What does it tell you about your family’s values?

What is a story that All Saints’ tells again and again? What do we learn about what we value? How does that help support our faith community in this liminal time?