Post 18 – Wow, never thought I’d get past 10…. but here I am still banging on about Story and God and Community and Love – And you know what, I’m going to repeat myself.
I’ll be repeating myself a lot. Over the coming posts through months (years? eep) I WILL repeat myself.
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, there is nothing new under the sun. We can think of new ways to say things, or new details on the telling, but essentially, most of what we have to say in the 21st century has already been said. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth saying. Some theories of storytelling state that there are only 3 (or 5 or 7 or 9 depending on whose theory you listen to) basic stories and that every story is just a variation on these 3. I pretty much agree with that theory, but would probably lean more towards the 7 figure. So, this leads to the natural logical conclusion that when discussing stories and what they are about, it would be a bit odd if you’re not repeating the same 7 things over and again.
There are stories about how community works, stories of how heroism works, stories about making sense of growing into adulthood (or middle age or old age). There are love stories and there are hate stories. There are stories about Grace, there are stories about Revenge. And none of this is new. But you know what we need to hear them again and again. Because – and I’m sorry – but us humans are a bit thick. We just don’t get it the first time. But it’s not just about us being thick, it’s sometimes about us listening to the wrong voices, the negative stories, the snake oil salesmen that only sell flashes and bangs and we lose what our true community building stories are trying to teach us.
Look at God’s story. His book is full of repetition. How many times does He say He loves us? How many times does he say don’t be afraid I’m with you? How many times does he say care for the poor, the widow, the outsider? The record of God’s old and new covenants is full of God repeating himself over and over – through prophets, through miracles, through poetry, through history. Part of this is down to the fact that He’s laying the groundwork for Jesus’ arrival, planting stories and images in the minds and hearts of his people so they wouldn’t miss the Greatest event in history. (Turns out a lot of them did miss it *sigh*).
Secondly, repetition is an essential component of storytelling. It helps us learn, it engages us, it builds bonds of common ground. In story, repeated phrases get the point across, and it involves us, because by the third and fourth repetition, we’re joining in. We’re smiling at our neighbour as we join in. We’re comfortable because we know what’s going to come next. Think Nail Soup – “What we have to do without is no use thinking more about”, If you haven’t heard Nail soup…I guess next post will have to be a storytelling session….perhaps. Or think of Harold – “On his ‘orse, with ‘is ‘awk in ‘is ‘and”. You see what I mean. It doesn’t have to be an exact repetition of words, merely a similar phrase that builds up to a climax through the story – think Goldilocks – Who’s been eating MY porridge, Who’s been sitting in MY chair, Who’s been sleeping in my bed.
Again, we see this use of repetition in God’s story, especially in the poetic writings. Just look at Psalm 136 – Repetition at it’s most hammer it home to you.
By the end you certainly get the message that God’s Love “endures forever” – I like the Message Version Best – His Love Never Quits.
So if you go away with anything go away with this – know that God’s love never Fails, He never gives up, He never lets go. And that’s something I will never stop writing about. Or as His disciple, won’t stop following that example.