The Story We Need

Lily, the central character in Sue Monk Kidd’s novel The Secret Life of Bees, was haunted by the story of her young childhood, a story that included violence, abuse, and a tragic accident with a gun, an accident that killed her mother. By a strange but providential turn of events, Lily found refuge in an circle of eccentric and powerful women who earned their living by keeping bees. From them, Lily learned more than the ways of bees and the varieties of honey; she learned the story of a black Madonna, “Our Lady of the Chains,” a story these women had hear repeated over and over again by their grandmother, “Big Mama.” As they cherished and told the story of how Our Lady of the Chains had rescued their people, the story gave them strength and hope; and, when Lily first heard the story, she thought to herself: “I wish . . . I had a story like that one to live inside of me with so much loudness you could pick it up with a stethoscope, and not the story I did have about ending my mother’s life and sort of ending mine at the same time” (NY: Penguin Books, 2003/2002, p. 142).

In one way or another, all of carry inside of us stories we wish we could replace with a better and brighter story. We have stories about our inadequacies, failures, and sins, about shattered dreams, disappointed expectations, and frustrated desires, about experiences of betrayal, loss, and grief. We want a compelling and vibrant story to live in us and to live by, a story that gives us meaning and hope, a story that ends in life and not in death.

The story we need is God’s story: overflowing with delight and unable to contain the joy of divine life, God made the world and created us in the divine image. We were made for friendship and partnership with God, but we and the world went wrong: we took our lives in our own hands, turned our backs on God, and brought ourselves and the world into ruin and despair. But God will not leave us alone; with relentless and sacrificial love, God keeps doing what God did in Jesus: God comes to us to with mercy and healing for our wounds, with grace and forgiveness for our sins, with justice and peace to give order to our chaotic world, and with kindness and compassion for our relationships with one another. And, God will not stop doing what God did in Jesus until creation is redeemed, the world is made whole, and God’s children rest again and anew in God’s love and delight. God invites us into that story. God calls us to become partners in doing what Jesus did and does: God anoints us, calls us, and empowers us to announce and enact the kingdom, to live our lives in complete, unhesitating love for God and in generous self-giving love for our neighbors.

The story we need is God’s story: overflowing with delight and unable to contain the joy of divine life, God made the world and created us in the divine image. We were made for friendship and partnership with God, but we and the world went wrong: we took our lives in our own hands, turned our backs on God, and brought ourselves and the world into ruin and despair. But God will not leave us alone; with relentless and sacrificial love, God keeps doing what God did in Jesus: God comes to us to with mercy and healing for our wounds, with grace and forgiveness for our sins, with justice and peace to give order to our chaotic world, and with kindness and compassion for our relationships with one another. And, God will not stop doing what God did in Jesus until creation is redeemed, the world is made whole, and God’s children rest again and anew in God’s love and delight. And, God invites us into that story. God calls us to become partners in doing what Jesus did and does: God anoints us, calls us, and empowers us to announce and enact the kingdom, to live our lives in complete, unhesitating love for God and in generous self-giving love for our neighbors.