Monday, October 16, 2017

The Power of Story

By Jebraun Clifford

I had the privilege of being the speaker at a holiday camp last weekend, though at first I admit I was a little terrified apprehensive at the prospect. While I regularly teach Sunday school, I have, on average, only fifteen kids in my class who I know and whose parents I know. The kids are used to me, and we always have a good time. Plus I keep my pockets stuffed with lollies to bribe them for good behaviour.

But how would a room full of fifty-five 8-12 year olds react to a stranger? That age group is notoriously challenging. Not to mention wriggly and easily distracted. Could I be engaging enough? Funny enough? And how on earth was I going to fit the whole gospel message (without being too preachy) in two half-hour evening sessions and one breakfast devotion?

It turned out better than I expected in that wonderfully chaotic way only God can orchestrate.

And it’s all because of the power of story.

Picking out a broad theme—God’s love for us—I found three parables in the gospels that detailed a different aspect of His love and what our response to it should be. One of the parables I chose was about the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep in the fold to look for the one lost sheep.

It’s no coincidence that when I arrived at camp Friday afternoon, there were three newborn baby lambs gamboling about. Or that one of the campers’ duties was to feed the lambs. Everyone got very attached to these adorable creatures and their habit of snuggling with whoever held them. If the lambs were lonely, they’d bleat pathetically until someone ran to their pen to pay attention to them, and we had more than one camper disappear during mealtimes to get some sneaky individual cuddle time.

When it came time to present the parable of the lost sheep, I asked them to imagine one of our beloved lambs was afraid and wandering alone somewhere in the dark, and everyone became immediately invested in the story. They all insisted they would brave the cold and the wet in order to rescue the missing lamb and promised they wouldn’t rest until the lamb was found. Nothing would stop them until the lamb was home safely.

When I explained that the love, tenderness, and protectiveness they felt towards the lamb was a smidgen of the thoughts God has towards them, you could see the realisation sink in.

One simple story, personalized and made very real, brought home an eternal truth to these kids in a way a boring (to them) sermon never could. All I did was follow my Saviour’s example.

Instead of laying out complex theological treatises, Jesus often told stories. He took powerful truths about the kingdom of heaven and cloaked them in the images of a treasure in a field, a mustard seed, and a net full of fish. He enthralled His audience with thrilling tales of wicked vinedressers, a foolish farmer, and an unjust judge. He populated His narratives with people we could each imagine ourselves as: a wayward son, an unforgiving servant, and a woman who lost a valuable coin.

These parables spoke volumes about God’s unfailing love. A love we get to tell others about.

And that’s what I love best about writing stories.

I get to weave my Christian worldview—that life is rich and amazing, that each one of us is deeply cherished, that we all are designed with unique gifts and talents for a good purpose, that we have a Creator who ardently pursues us and holds all things in the palm of His hand—into a fictional tale anyone might pick up to read.

It’s an opportunity we each have when we sit down to write a story.

Whether you pen fantasy, romance, mystery, or historical fiction, you get to hide your unique perspective of who God is and what His love means to you into your writing. Isn’t that exciting?

What powerful truths do you disguise as story?

About Jebraun Clifford

Jebraun Clifford always wanted to step through a door into an imaginary kingdom, so it’s no surprise she now calls Middle Earth home. Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, she lives in a gorgeous town smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island filled with thermal activity, stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon.

Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer's 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.

You can find Jebraun online at:

1 comment:

  1. Bravo, Jeb. Yay for you. 55 - yep, that sure would be intimidating! And you'd need a lot of lollies (#notenoughpockets) But you chose the better path with story.

    As you say it's what makes writing stories so much fun ... we get to do it with Him and to weave His thoughts into our characters. I love that we're able to discover the truth about a question we have through our stories.

    Thanks for the encouragement today, Jeb.