I Love to Tell the Story
DUDLEY HALL —
“Are you Pre, Post, or Ah?” It was the first day of my freshman year and I was in the religion department at the university. An upperclassman was asking about my view of eschatology and I didn’t know what either eschatology or the prefixes were. Back home at the little Baptist church where I grew up, we didn’t use such language. I was in a new world and vulnerable to those who knew such new stuff. The professors were doing me a favor that I didn’t recognize when they made me question the borrowed faith of my family. I was pretty sure I had been “called” into the ministry, but that became cloudy in my mind.
After the first semester, I carried my doubts with me on a visit back home. On Sunday I attended church with my parents. It was the same as before I left. Same song leader and pianist. Same people sitting in the same pews. My mind was wandering when I realized the old hymn we were singing:
I love the tell the story
Of unseen things above
Of Jesus and his glory
Of Jesus and his love
And when in scenes of glory
I sing a new new song
Twill be the old old story
That I have loved so long
I love to tell the story
For those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting
To hear it like the rest …
Tears were running down my face and I somehow knew this was my destiny. I would be telling the story to both those who had never heard and those who had. It was the story that would define my life and my vocation. It would become in later years more precious than life itself.
Reality is defined by the story that God tells. He, the personal God, created us out of love. He placed his highest creation — humans — in the place of stewarding his creation. They submitted to lies from the deceiver — Satan — and creation experienced the consequences of their fall. Evil was introduced to the pristine creation and there would be a cosmic battle for centuries until Adam and Eve’s representative faced personified evil and crushed it. His name is Jesus. He came to deliver people from the slavery of self-obsessed sinfulness. He is all that God is, as well as being all that man was created to be. He alone is worshipped in both heaven and among those on earth who have come to know him.
When this story is told, the living Christ is present. People can encounter him and find forgiveness and love. He goes with the story. He promised his followers that he would never leave them as they went throughout the world telling his story. When people really hear it they begin to see with new eyes and live from a new perspective. Jesus once told a very prominent Jewish leader that he would have to be born of the Spirit in order to even see the kingdom of God. The Spirit makes the story real to those willing to hear.
There are many stories that attempt to interpret history and define reality. None of them truly fit the plot. None of them carries the presence of the Savior with the story. They all lead to attempts at reaching immortality, blessings, God’s acceptance, and a better life. None of them tells of the one who came in our behalf and did everything humans could never do, paying the full penalty for all our rebellion, and presenting us to God in his own righteousness. All other stories leave the outcome in human hands. The old story is about God from first to last. We are the beneficiaries.
What a privilege to be part of the narrative ourselves and to get to tell the magnificent story of one who loves so much that the human mind cannot conceive of it.
I still love the old hymn, but more than that, I love that story.