the best story we can tell

My family is full of storytellers. On both sides. And they never forget the really embarrassing stories, of course.

Some of these stories have garnered such great fame that they begin to tell themselves. Little cousins who weren't even born before the actual occurrence of events can tell the stories just as well--if not better than--those of us who have lived through them.

These are the stories of the moments that have made us who we are. There's the story about the catfish at Hamilton Lake, which made my sister and I afraid of swimming for a least a few summers. The story of the Chevy at the bottom of Oliver Lake, when some teenage boys (my uncles) pushed it out onto the ice. Then, of course, the time I got "married" to my four-year-old buddy and his sister pronounced me his "awfully wedded wife." Mom's surprise 40th birthday party, which she figured out 30 minutes before a cried the whole drive home before arriving to a houseful of guests. The time I sunk the speed boat. The time Grandma shot two holes in her wood floor because someone rang the doorbell. The time my dad passed some liver pate to my mom, thinking it was cinnamon butter. Now, if we ever think he's making something up without evidence, we ask him if it's cinnamon butter. These are the stories that bring us joy with every memory. Only a few sentences into these stories, and suddenly the room is filled with laughter.

Then there are the stories that bring a fresh wave of grief or pain. They are the stories that make us who we are, too, but these are the ones that reveal the true fortitude of our character. There was the time we found the drugs. The time the anger poured over into a rage, grandmother hurling abusive words at a cowering daughter while the grandchildren looked on in fear. The day the babies died, the day they were buried, and the cold, silent thanksgiving dinner just days later. The arguments at night, punctuated by a kindergartener waking up to say, "please stop, kiss and make up!" The time I took away the Christmas presents from under the tree and blasted Everclear's "I will be hating you for Christmas" on my stereo. The time our van broke down in Georgia and our nuclear family nearly exploded. The phone call about the pathology report, and the words, "there is no curative treatment, only palliative care."

These are the true stories of my life. These are the places where my identity was forged, where my character was tested, where my worldview and sensibilities and passions were shaped. In many ways, these stories are my center, my ground. I'm not sure who I would be without these stories. In a word, these stories are home.

And then, the truest story of them all. The story of a world wrecked by destruction and brokenness, of humanity full of rebellion, distress, turmoil. The unsettling inescapability of death. The absence of God. And then, the dawn of hope in the face of a baby, God in the flesh, God with us. The baby who became a teacher, a healer, a leader, a controversy. The man who set his face toward the city of his death and marched on fearlessly. The man who prayed for relief from the burden, but prayed even more than that for the will of God to be done, no matter how bitter or painful. The man who became obedient to death, though He was God himself. The man who defeated death for us, who repaired the broken world, who redeemed the rebellious humanity.

As much as any other story is my center, my identity, my home... this story is only story that gives me a new name, that adopts me into a new family, that has the power to change my very character. This is it. This is the one that makes me who I am, really and truly. This is the story to tell all other stories, this is the only one that can make sense of all the others, put them into clarity and give them purpose. This is the story that all other stories are telling.

May it be the best story we tell to each other, and may we tell it often. May we tell it always. May we never stop telling it. May it be the first story we learn and the last story we tell. And may it tell us who we are, may it be the place we make our home. May it be our center.

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