The Case for Story Telling

Cynthia Pearl Maus packs a world of insight into a short space when she says: “You may have tangible wealth untold, caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you could never be; I know someone who told stories to me” (in David Larsen’s Telling the Old, Old Story, p. 13). For reasons I cannot fully explain, those lines detonated as an existential sunburst in my soul the first time I read them. Tears welled up in my eyes; in part, I suppose, because I read them as a father who tells stories to his children. I suspect my response was also owing to the fact that my heavenly Father tells stories to me, and his stories have enriched my life beyond measure.

“Richer than I you could never be; I know someone who told stories to me.” Maus certainly means to say that stories are told to children who are loved. And that is right. But I think she is saying something more. She recognizes the singular contribution story-telling can make to the development of moral character, psychological stability, intellectual depth and similar soul-shaping inheritances. Stories provide children with roots—teaching and grounding them in transcendent realities. Stories shape souls, who steer cultures and define eras.

By creative design we are programmed to thrive on stories. Elie Wiesel is quoted on the same page in Larsen’s book as saying: “God made man because He loves stories” (emphasis mine). That statement walks just as well on its head: God made stories, because he loves man. The God of the Bible is a story-telling God who graciously roots his people in the truth, motivates them to live righteously, and comforts their hearts by means of stories. Read more about The Case for Story Telling

To Have or Not Have: Childlessness and Imago Dei Identity

This past week I found myself cuddling the newest member of our church—a sweet, Dreft-scented little girl named Hope. As I held her in my arms, I have to admit that I felt the ache of maternal longing well up inside me. The memories of my own children at that age and the sheer wonder at new life were almost too much. And yet, my husband and I are not presently pursuing any new members of the family. For us, as it is for many couples, the question of when and whether to have more children has been a complicated one, one that has forced us to wrestle through desire, calling, and limitation. On the other hand, for an increasing number, the question is not when or how many children to have; the question is whether to have them at all.

In August, Time magazine explored this phenomenon in their cover story entitled, “The Childfree Life: When having it all means not having children.” And then earlier in September, Emily Timbol wrote a piece for Her.meneutics, a blog of Christianity Today, explaining why she and her husband do not intend to have children (and why she’d appreciate you not judging her for it). Now, couples choosing to not have children is nothing new; but what I do find interesting is why they are choosing this. The current argument seems less rooted in the classic appeal to overpopulation or the desire to commit oneself to extreme callings or even a worry about bringing children into a terribly broken world. Instead, it seems that more and more couples are choosing to not have children in order to pursue certain lifestyles and careers unhindered. And while it’s easy to chalk this up to Millennial selfishness, (see here for a piece that rightly challenges the temptation to make Millennials the scapegoat for every societal ill), I don’t think it’s that simple. At the same time, the question of whether to have children is going to be increasingly pesky one for Millennials for a couple of reasons: Read more about To Have or Not Have: Childlessness and Imago Dei Identity

Why We Need Dads

Conventional wisdom these days seems to quietly concede that dads are not all that necessary anymore. Just watch a sitcom. One mom (or two) is sufficient for a healthy upbringing. Dads may be great, but are most certainly dispensable.

Due to the mercies of God, dads are sometimes unnecessary. Kids who grow up without a father in the home can develop into strong, successful people. Having said that, principles should not be constructed from exceptional cases. Broadly speaking, kids prosper uniquely when they are afforded the privilege of growing up under the influence of an involved, loving father who acts like a man.

For a somewhat distinct set of reasons, children equally need moms. I’m not denying overlap between the two subsets; nor am I suggesting all dads must fit a precast mold. But qualifiers aside, engaged fathers bequeath unique benefits to the nurture of healthy, well-rounded children. And it’s okay to say so now and then.

Why do kids need dads? The question could be answered from any number of angles—physiological, philosophical, sociological, theological, etc. Permit here a less formal response. Why do kids need dads? Bear hugs. Wrestling matches in the living room. Launching toddlers into the air and catching them on their way down—even if only by one limb. Responding triumphantly to the bloodied knee of a quivering-lipped munchkin looking for pity: “Way to go, kid-o, nice work!” Discussing what’s under the hood of a car and why it matters. Tackle football in the back yard. Demonstrating the fine art of mowing the lawn and cleaning out the garage. Initiating, then providing the calming presence on a scary amusement park ride. Watching a ball game and analyzing it afterwards. Playing with knives. Demonstrating a love for sweaty, dirty work. Telling a kid pointedly: “Get over it,” or “No, you can’t do that.” No monkey-business enforcement of consequences for children who break rules. Teaching the craft of using power tools, raking the lawn, changing a tire, and building a bike ramp. Pedagogy on shaving and tying a tie. Leading hunting, fishing, and camping trips, and adventurous hikes in nature. Teaching teenagers to park the car in the garage. Teaching teens to take responsibility when parking the car in the garage doesn’t go so well. Gruff warnings to the young man showing interest in your daughter. Gruffer words when warding off sleaze balls interested in the same daughter. Enlightening your daughter to the reality that what she sees as a cute outfit strikes guys differently. Warning sons about the destructive powers of pornography. Handling failure and trials with a steady spirit and steely resolve. Showing confidence and faith in God during tough times. Demonstrating the grace and strength of saying, “I was wrong, please forgive me” and “I love you.” Showing appropriate affection to the kids’ mother. Protecting and honoring that same woman before their eyes with persistent fidelity. Bequeathing to the kids the stabilizing roots of family culture, of faith in God, of hope and love. Read more about Why We Need Dads