We are forgetful people and sometimes need someone to lay the drama of God’s love before us, writes William R. White. God’s grace is uncommon and we need to be reminded about it. “We need to hear the stories of the almost-too-good-to-be-true promises of God, the story of good news in the midst of the world’s bad news.,” he continues.
An old pastor visiting a country jail came upon a despondent young man. “leave me alone, pastor. I’m no good,” the young man moaned. “Everything I have touched has been bruised. I have influenced others to turn to a life of crime. I have deeply wounded the only ones who care for me – my mother, my wife, and our young daughter. There is no hope for me.”
The old man was silent for a moment before he spoke. “The hurt that you have inflicted on others may never be healed.” What you have done is most serious. What you need now is to find a new compass, a new way to walk.” He paused before he continued. “We must begin by teaching you some new stories.”
“Stories!” the young man thundered. “I speak to you out of despair and you talk to me of idle tales? I live without hope and you speak to me of happy endings? If my life is to be spent behind bars, I may need new facts, but I certainly do not need fiction.”
When the outburst had subsided, the pastor placed a caring hand on the young man’s arm. “Humor an old man. Listen to one tale.”
One day a very bad man died and went before the judgement throne. Before him stood Abraham, David, Peter and Luke. A chilly silence hung heavy in the room as an unseen voice began to read the details of the man’s life. There was nothing good that was recorded. When the voice concluded, Abraham spoke; “Men like you cannot enter the heavenly kingdom, You must leave.”
“Father Abraham,” the man cried, “I do not defend myself. I have no choice but to ask for mercy. Certainly you understand. Though you lied to save your own life, saying your wife was your sister, by the grace and mercy of God you became a blessing to all nations.”
David interrupted, “Abraham has spoken correctly. You have committed evil and heinous crimes.” You do not belong in the kingdom of light.” The man faced the great king and cried, “Son of Jesse, it is true. I am a wicked man.” Yet I dare ask you for forgiveness. You slept with Uriah’s wife and later, to cover your sin, arranged his death. I ask only forgiveness as you have known it.”
Peter was next to speak. “Unlike David, you have shown no love to God. By your acid tongue and your vile temper you have wounded the Son of God.” “I should be silent,” the man muttered. “The only way I have used the blessed name of Jesus is in anger.” Still, Simon, son of Jonah, I plead for grace. Though you walked by his side and listened to words from his own lips, you slept when he needed you in the garden, and you denied him there times in his night of greatest need.”
Then Luke the evangelist spoke, You must leave. You have not been found worthy of the kingdom of God.”
The man’s head bowed sadly for a moment before a spark lit in his face. “My life has been recorded correctly,” the man began slowly. “I am guilty as charged. Yet I know there is a place for me in this blessed kingdom. Abraham, David and Peter will plead my cause because they know of the weakness of man and the mercy of God. You, blessed physician, will open the gates to me because you have written of God’s great love for the likes of me. Don’t you recognize me? I am the lost sheep that the Good Shepherd carried home. I am your younger, prodigal brother.”
And the gates opened and Luke embraced the sinner.”
“You see,” the old pastor concluded, “I want you to learn stories, not as an exercise in fiction, but in order to walk in mercy.” Stories will help you find your way.
This was an excerpt from William J. Bausch’s Storytelling: Imagination and Faith book. Amazing book I am reading now and wanted to share this story with our readers. ISBN is 0-89622-199-7. Must be a great book because in my hands I have the 1996th edition and it’s the tenth printing.