Stories are central to who we are as Christians. The Bible is a collection of stories about God and God’s people. We are called to tell the story of our faith, one of love and grace and hope. Stories are also just as central to who we are as humans. We are meaning-making creatures, always constructing stories and using narratives to understand the world and ourselves. Our lives are stories that we are constantly adding to and editing.
How we craft, tell, and understand stories is very much shaped by our perspectives and the experiences that we use to build our frameworks. So it’s disorienting when we come across a story that doesn’t fit neatly into our framework, one that disrupts the narrative we use to make sense of the world.
If all of our encounters with police have been positive, then the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are unfathomable. If we learned in school that the problem of racism was largely solved by the civil rights movement of the 1960s, then the murder of Ahmaud Arbery is impossible to understand. If we believe that America is a melting pot and that we live in a post-racial society, then we don’t get why we need to declare that Black Lives Matter or why millions have taken to the streets to protest systemic racism and police brutality. Even the narrative of these protests is complex, some telling a story of riots defined by violence and looting and some recognizing peaceful demonstrations by people who are crying out for change and justice that has been delayed for over 400 years.
The longer ending to Mark’s gospel says that after Jesus’ resurrection, he appeared to Mary Magdalene. But when she went and told the disciples that Jesus was alive, they didn’t believe her. The story she told didn’t fit into their framework and their grief, the narrative they understood about life and death. The disciples came to believe once they saw Jesus for themselves and after Jesus “upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen” (Mark 16:14), they received their commission to go and tell the good news to all people, the same unbelievable story that we tell today: of life triumphing over death and hope overcoming despair.
What story are you telling? How are you making sense of all that is going on in the world right now and your role in it? Does your narrative leave space to encounter the experiences of those who don’t look like you or think like you? May we all strive to make room in our narratives for those stories that disrupt and complicate our frameworks, allowing us to grasp more of the complexity of what it means to be human and compelling us to work for a more just world.