When I began my college studies a few years ago, I took a beginning religion course taught by Richard Swanson, a professor at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S.D. The class challenged me deeply. Amid a semester of mental and physical health stumbles that left me in a whirlwind of personal discovery, I felt the course would never see my full potential, but I loved it.
The course focused on the power of stories to reach into realms unknown and uncover the Divine. That course has become one of the most impactful I have ever taken. It shaped the way I deal with life, love, awe and tragedy. It made space for stories to continue that work in my life.
Stories exist in so many ways and through so many avenues. Storytelling in journalism, for example, allows individuals and communities to express a reality that provides free will and truth. In contrast, a story in novel form allows expression and escape into a world of human invention.
The best element of stories is that they can reach beyond the human surface into the unknown and unseen, speaking to the soul and the calls of the earth. They instill in us values, responsibilities, and an ability to believe in and grapple with reality in the various and expansive ways it exists. They allow us to explore our fears and uncertainties, to dream and live in worlds completely foreign to us. Stories also allow us to escape into a dimension of the human imagination, allowing laughter and a perspective that may be difficult to access in instances when emotions can be overwhelming.
This is how I have discovered storytelling to be a vital ministry – one that unites us in a collective and individual search and expression, uncovering in us thought and wonder we may not have known existed.
As we think about what it means to be stewards of love and vocation, may we always remember the unique accessibility to the Divine that exists in stories, storytelling and the ways stories move us to respond.