Reviewing and renewing Biblical faith through story and study

Friday, July 08, 2011

The Big Question

In Mildura this May, while spending the day as a guest Bible teacher at Henderson College, the year seven class I was teaching had unexpected visitors.
The local paper, The Sunraysia Daily, sent a reporter and photographer to document the visit of “A storyteller” to their town. The reporter offered to come back when I finished teaching and as a counter-offer I asked her if she would be willing to interview me in front of the class. She agreed.
Arranged at a 45-degree angle to each other and facing the class, the reporter and I began having a discussion about why I do what I do. “You tell Bible stories. Why?” “You write Bible storybooks for kids. Why?” “Why storytelling instead of preaching?” Then she turned the questions to the students, “Hey Kids, how many of you enjoy reading the Bible? Why?” “Do you believe the Bible is true? Why?”
A group photo followed the discussion and then I left the class with the teacher while I walked the newspaper ladies to my car where I gave them copies of my books. A few steps out of the classroom, the reporter stopped and said, “Can I ask you one more question?”
This is it, I thought. The big question. She didn’t want to ask it in front of the kids. What will she ask?
“You really want people to read the Bible, don’t you?” She said.
I nodded.
“Well.” She searched for the right words. “Most of our readers don’t believe in God. So, of course, they don’t believe the Bible is important. What would you say to someone… well, someone like me – who doesn’t believe the Bible is true?”
You know that feeling you get later, when the right words come to you but the conversation is long gone? I get that all the time. Oh, I should have said… But this day was different. This day, the words came easily and with passion – as if they had been prepared ahead of time!
“I would say, ‘Give the Bible a chance.’” I looked into her eyes and continued, “Just read it and let the story speak to you.”
“Oh, I like that,” she said as she wrote. “Let the story speak to you.”
“Start with Mark,” I said. “Just read it for the story. Don’t worry about if it is true, just look for the truth in it.”
She jotted rapidly on her pad. “Truth not true… I like that. What do you mean?”
“People read books that aren’t true all the time. Being true is not the issue.” I thought for a minute. “Consider Spiderman. None of us believe a teenage boy, bitten by a spider, can shoot webs out of his wrists and swing from building to building. Nobody believes Spiderman is true. But we all leave the movie thinking, ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ That’s truth. And we learn truth from stories – true or not.”
She nodded and wrote more notes.
I continued, “The Bible is filled with great truths. ‘Do to others what you want them to do to you.’ That’s a great truth found in the Bible. The golden rule permeates nearly every religion on the planet. ‘Greater love has no one than this – that he die for his friends.’ That’s another great truth. I believe the Bible is true, and so the stories have even more meaning for me. But, you can find great truth in the Bible as a book of wisdom. Just give it a chance. Read it!”
I gave them copies of my kids Bible storybooks and then rushed back in to the classroom to finish the class. Later, talking to the principal, we were both overwhelmed by what had happened.
Principal Sandra Ferry told me that the kids who had spoke up for their faith in the year seven class were all from non-Christian families. They had learned about God and the Bible at Henderson College. Their school was the centre of their faith and they had boldly said, “Yes, we believe!”
I was amazed that the words I needed were given to me at the right moment. What a blessing!
The article came out a week later in the Saturday paper. I was interested to see how the reporter structured the story. Beyond the article, I wonder how our conversation has affected her life. It has certainly given me a lot of food for thought!