The Power of Story

Once upon a time…

There was a man who had two sons…

In the days of Caesar Augustus…

Long, long ago in a land far, far away…

In the great, green room there was telephone, and a red balloon…

You may have been able to complete each of those sentences, each of those stories, because we are story-shaped creatures, and stories help give meaning and purpose to life. You remember those stories because stories are easy to remember, because they are familiar stories, and with those stories comes meaning and memory and even change. Stories engage the whole person – mind, will, emotions, body, heart, desire – and are an excellent way to teach children truth.

Dan Taylor, an english professor at my alma mater, spoke recently at the Desiring God National Conference on the topic, The Life-Shaping Power of Story: God’s and Ours. It is a instructive and helpful talk, if you would like to listen to it or watch it. But what I would like to do is use it to consider some of his thoughts as they apply to families as a part of my series, Parenting for Joy.

Today I would like to consider the importance of Historical stories, in particular the stories of people in history as examples of godly virtues. The stories of Christians and their lives and event encapsulate truths that we want our children to know and understand. Let me refer to two particular stories that have particular relevance for this time of year.

October 31st isn’t significant in history because it is Halloween. 491 years ago one of the most important events in history occurred with a nail, a hammer, and a piece of paper. Well, I am not sure if it was paper, but it was a document on which were written 95 statements of disagreement with what was happening in the culture of that day in Europe. It was an invitation for discussion, and it began like this:

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place.

Those do not seem like very important words, do they? Initially no one else did, either, because no one came to debate him. But after his words spread around Europe things were never the same again. In fact Luther is often called the Father of the Reformation as a result of this act and his life. Luther would be an excellent person to teach your children about the history of the church, about the gospel, about opposition and courage and faith. You can read or listen to a talk John Piper gave at a Pastor’s conference on Luther for some insight, or check out this book on Reformation Heroes (which I have not read). We would not have free churches as we have today without the Protestant Reformation.

On a side note, but pertinent, Luther is remembered first and foremost as a father in Germany, not a reformer.

We also would probably not have the country we have today without the pilgrims. The miraculous voyage of the Mayflower, the severity of the first winter, God’s providence through Samoset, Squanto, and Massasoit, the true story of the pilgrims is one of remarkable faith and confidence in God. Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember is an excellent resource for your family in telling the story of the pilgrims. This audio story of The Legend of Squanto is also very good, a well done story to listen to in the car or at home.

Dan Taylor states that stories are one of the best ways to instruct the next generation. Consider instructing through historical stories as you teach your children for joy. More on stories next week.


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