Father’s day, S-Town & the stories that shape us

by susan on June 19, 2017

Father’s day conjures up different emotions for each of us. It can be a hard day for many, particularly for those who’ve lost their dads, have dads that have disregarded them or those who’ve never even known their dads. It can be a day of celebration for many other. I n either case, days like these remind us of where we come from & they remind us that we each have a story.

And, stories are powerful, aren’t they?

I’ve been thinking a lot about stories this week. How many of you listen to This American Life? And how many of you listened to the recent series S-Town?

I don’t want to give too much away, but like most This American Life episodes, S-Town tells a fascinating set of stories. Everyone in Woodstock, Alabama has a story, but the most intriguing, the most fascinating to me is the story of John McLemore.

Part of John’s story is that he’s fed up with life in Woodstock and he’s way past ready for a change. He spends most of his conversations with the show host Brian Reed, complaining, lamenting, cussing & critiquing the narrow-minded culture & the backward ways of his hometown. From the way he talks, you get the feeling that he’s going to leave Woodstock any day. After all this place embodies nothing he stands for or believes & in fact, he can’t even be his truest self there.

Yet, despite it all, he can’t seem to do it. It’s like he’s stuck there, unable to break free from the story of S-Town.

Stories are powerful because they tell us where we come from & who we are. They also have the power to hold us back, to keep us stuck in a place we know we’d rather not be.

On the contrary though, stories can inspire us in new directions, can’t they? They can tell us there’s another way.

This week has reminded me of that, too.
And, it’s been a tough week for inspiration –
a block fire in London,
a congressman shot by an adversary while playing baseball &
the acquittal of the police officer who killed Philando Castile.
Not to mention, the one year anniversary of the Pulse tragedy.

Last Sunday as I attended a vigil in remembrance of that terrible night at Pulse, I listened as all 49 names were read and a bell tolled in honor of each one. Each name represented a life – a life full of hopes & fears, plans & imperfections – a brother, a sister, a son, a daughter – a story of a life that ended way too soon.

I kept thinking it shouldn’t be this way &
I know this isn’t God’s hope for the world.
Then, I remembered another story.

It was a story that interrupted the cloud of grief & despair left lingering after Pulse.

I remembered how in anticipation of hate-filled Westboro funeral protesters, a group of people from an Orlando Theater company decided that hate would not be the story for that day. So, they got together & constructed angel costumes with wingspans large enough to overshadow the sight and sound of the protesters. They lined the funeral processional wearing their costumes.

It was a beautiful picture & one that still inspires me. It’s one that can help us all remember that we have the power to interrupt death-dealing stories & to embrace life-giving ones. We can choose a different way of being in the world.

Despite so many misrepresentations, that really is the way of Jesus. Jesus was an interruption to the harmful stories that had been guiding people for way too long: stories of false religion, of corrupt power, of violence & greed & hate, of wars & enemies, stories that said “you’re only measured by your birthright or by the best or worst thing you’ve ever done.”

He interrupted those stories with one
of love,
of healing,
of non-violence,
of new community
& of new life.

Whether it’s the story we were born into or
the ones our town or nation tells us are scripted for us
we have the power to choose the story we will embrace
& the ones we will interrupt.

Writer Shauna Niequist put it this way: “The world will tell you how to live, if you let it. Don’t let it. Take up your space. Raise your voice. Sing your song.”

And I would add, choose the story you will embrace & the ones you will interrupt.

As you move through this week, let’s consider this question:
What story are you embracing, interrupting or creating through your life?

Previous post:

Next post: