The Power of Story

My dad & I, summer 1958

My dad & I, summer 1958. This is the only photo I have of him holding me. I have no memories of him I can say I’ve been able to hold on to.

“Good stories,” Dan Allender says, “tell about the intersection of desire and tragedy. A story begins when our desires collide head-on with reality.”

There is no better verb than collide when it comes to the story of my father: his life was shortened by a collision on a lonely Alberta back-road when I was barely 15 months old. That collision would catapult me along a spiritual journey where I would eventually recognize what Douglas Steere described as:

“… the love of the One who is actively concerned in awakening each live to its true centre is already lapping at the shores of that life… prayer is only cooperation with God’s active love in besieging this life.”

Like waves that continually lap our shores, our stories recur with familiarity and sometimes wash up new memories that have to be found among the jetsam and flotsam. There is something to be re-discovered in our stories as Dan Allender writes in his book “To Be Told: God Invites You to Coauthor Your Future“:

“God writes our story with great passion and desire, and he reveals our own passions and desires as we read and listen to our story.”

There are no Storyless Prayers

Last Sunday a school teacher in our church (thanks Alison!) recalled an incident where she was reading a story about family to her Grade 6 students. She told us how she began to get emotional as she read the story, and how two others began to whimper. But is was how her class responded that was so healing: they went to surround these two fellow students who had recently lost their fathers, and they began to pray for them. It was an altogether powerful moment, and it shocked me into an old memory long forgotten.

As I listened, I allowed myself to be transported to my Grade 5 class, and I thought about what it would have been like if what happened in Alison’s class had happened in mine. I would likely have been one of those fatherless students crying (or trying to hide crying) in the corner. In Grade 5 – I had un-expectantly become re-aquainted with – or overly focussed on being fatherless.  I was doing fine without this awareness until then.

In that Grade 5 class, we were to write stories; mine were tales about war with explosions and death. It was my attempt to concoct a myth about my dad from the war years – weaving together shreds of evidence into a mythological whole. My teacher, as I recall, eventually “had enough” of my broken-record storylines, and told me to stop writing.  Then when she told my mother (gasp), the horror of being exposed was too much. This memory had laid dormant until Alison spoke up in church.

I didn’t have the vocabulary then, nor did I have the emotional maturity to even identify what was going on inside. I didn’t have a helpful narrative with my family about this unknown person. I don’t know if any of the rest of my siblings ever talked about our experience; I simply don’t remember if we did.

So I tried to imagine what it would’ve been like to be in a class where my loss would have been recognized, explored, and prayed over.  Odd that it is at this stage of life that I enter into prayerful imagination with my good friend to picture Jesus:

Waiting, watching, listening
there beside me in foolish exposure;
Are you embarrassed to be found with me?

I see You looking painfully at me 
for You feel mine, and yet You are 
open armed and open hearted.

After my tale You take me with You
to touch the void, the loss, the forgotten.
You are not ashamed or shameful.

Why now, after all these years,
must I visit that moment?
What do You have for me that only fits now?

Now is the teachable minute out of the million before
Where I can finally listen
to hear You say:

My friend, my Abba’s beloved,
You were never overlooked
and I know you…”

For more, see “No Storyless Prayers.”

After my wife (Mercy) read this, she directed me to a song by “Mercy Me” (what a great coincidence, eh?) – titled “Dear Younger Me.” I especially resonate with the lines:

If I knew then what I know now
condemnation would’ve had no power
my joy, my pain would’ve
never been my worth…

Dear younger me,
it’s not your fault
You were never meant
to carry this beyond the cross…

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About R.H. (Rusty) Foerger

As I enter the third third of life, I am becoming aware of the role of elders today “to enlarge spiritual vision, being devoted to prayer, living in the face of death, as a living curriculum of the Christian life” (Dr. James M. Houston). I am a life long and life wide learner who seeks to: *decipher the enigma of our worth *rescue from the agony of prayerlessness *integrate spiritual friendship.
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3 Responses to The Power of Story

  1. Oh, it so reminded me of my school days.. I lost my dad when I was seven months old. So even I have no memories of him. And the only picture I had of him got erased some 8 years ago. I had taken it with me when I was travelling for about 9 hours on a stretch, I had got drenched in rain. When I checked the picture which I had kept inside the book after I reached the destination, it was but a white sheet with no ink in it. I felt dead at that time. I also remember how I used to write small poems about me being sort of an orphan ( because my mom was an orphan and we ( mom, my elder sister and I) did not have any other moral support). Life was hard. I had become so angry on God I eventually became an atheist. I could not believe He existed and could just not imagine Him as a Father. And then He changed my heart, showed how deeply He cared for me and my family even when I had lost hope and denied Him. On one fine day I realized God is my good good father and I called Him Daddy for the first time. That moment brought me to the security which I had lost all those 25+ years.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. It brought so many memories of Divine Providence in my life. May God bless you and your family. : )

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is remarkable how similar our experiences are; I often say that my mom “died” the day my dad died in the sense that she never really recovered from that; the narrative of my life was written with the thick ink of death. But, like you, I am amazed at Abba, Father, who’s adoptive love is energetic and intervening; who’s Son is Saviour, Brother, and Lord; and who’s Spirit is life and communion. Grace to you; may you tell your story (His story) with joy.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you.. And grace to you too. Certainly, our losses will be filled by Him when this transitory life would pass. Until then we may only trust in His ways and offer our sorrows. The joy and privilege of knowing our Creator surpasses all pains. Pax!

    Liked by 2 people

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