The Power of Listening to a Good Story
There is a small yet plentiful mountain grocery store near where I live. Think “tiny, tiny, tiny Whole Foods”. As I entered on a recent evening there was a local mountain guy at the checkout counter telling a grand story. The checkout lady was smiling and listening and engaged. She is always like that, and that is one reason I like to shop there. As I shopped I could hear his story, and for the next seven to ten minutes the man was still talking as customers went through the checkout.
Finally he finishes his story and ends by saying, “Well, I just wanted to tell someone.” He was humble and a bit ragged, but gentlemanly. When I brought my items to the checkout I said to the lady and a young bagger, “You both did something very beautiful a few minutes ago.” Their faces showed confusion not knowing what I was talking about. I explained, “You were listening. You were listening to the man telling his story, and that was beautiful. One of the kindest things we can do is listen to someone’s story.”
Have you heard a good story lately? Probably not. We are so amazing at multi-tasking that we just don’t tell stories anymore—let alone listen to a story being told. If someone cannot capture the message and deliver it with a gif and 5 to 12 words, we just are not interested. Communication today is about ‘Information Volume’ not ‘Information Depth’. History will show we are the “Scrolling Generation”—we think we are so smart that we know the end of the story even before it begins.
Charles Schultz of the Peanuts comics and cartoons is a master story teller. His Charlie Brown’s Christmas is my all time favorite. For me, the scene where adorable Linus wraps his blanket around his head and body looking like a little shepherd as he delivers the birth of Christ story is epic and bold.
Stories become great if one can imagine themselves in the action. So let’s do it now. Imagine you are one of the shepherds on that clear, starry night in the hills near Bethlehem. You are one of the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. Suddenly, an angle appears and gives the good news for all mankind. (Luke 2)
What would you do? How would you handle this event in your life? Picture yourself there in the moment, what do you do next? I see myself overwhelmed, shocked, excited, and in a whirl to go tell my family and friends. I would be full of this story that must be told and it would bubble forth to the first person I met, and then to the next and then to the next. I would be telling this story over and over to everyone and anyone. As one of the shepherds I would flood forth words tying to get someone to listen, someone to believe, someone, anyone to follow me and find this child Emmanuel.
Great stories must be retold. Think of all those who have retold the story of the birth of Jesus since the first shepherds who excitedly ran into their homes and up until today. Even cartoon characters tell the story. Good stories become great stories when someone listens. I imagine the shepherds faced some scenarios while proclaiming the event they witnessed. Some people certainly mocked them saying they are drunk or having a mushroom psychedelic trip. Some would just walk away confused by what they heard. Some folks probably thought it was a cute story and dismissed them as simple minded shepherds. But clearly there were many who believed the story, even some took the story to the authorities to decipher if this was a community concern.
Understanding the Stories of the Bible
People have basically always just scrolled down when things were being told to them. “Yes, yes, yes please get to the point”. Information—Scripture does not tell us to get information. However, it does tell us to get wisdom and understanding. (Proverbs 4:5-7)
A great way to get wisdom and understanding is to not take Bible stories at face value and just scroll on. Take time to slow down and see the story from within. Become a character in the story and envision what it was like. How would we react? How would we feel? What was it like to be one of the shepherds?
Put yourself in their home and in the marketplace. Imagine how they interacted with others for the rest of their life. (Talking about marketplace evangelism, you know that is all that is …you and me just telling our story of what we witnessed of Jesus.)
No one was seeing Angels and no one was witnessing a Heavenly Host of singing. Come on get in this story! As a result of this event the shepherds were being asked again and again to tell their story. They were on the story teller circuit. The morning show, the noon show the evening news, the late night shows. Their lives dramatically shifted as they told all. I imagine they heard the request thousands of times in their life…”Please, tell your story again.”
Three Challenges I leave with You
- Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere—Go and Tell
- Listen, listen, listen. There is as much power in listening as there is in telling. Stop and Listen. Give it time. Give people time. Give story communication a chance, it is in these moments that we give value to others. By listening we gain wisdom, knowledge, understanding, joy, relationship, healing. Listening does bring healing.
- How would your life dramatically change if you began telling your witness of Christ our Lord?
Listen to love. You might get more than an earful; you might just receive a heart full. And isn’t this what we all need, a full heart?
The raggedy man who told his story in the mountain grocery store was glowing after he had told it. Someone listened and cared. Someone did not scroll on, ignoring his presence. I learned a lot seeing this, and I hope you learned something reading this. At least I know your heart was warmed thinking of the shepherd boy Linus quoting Luke 2:
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
Have you heard a good story lately?