The power of a story is well known. I’m sure that if I were to ask you to share some of your favorite stories with me, you would have no trouble pulling out a few and sharing them in vivid detail. There is something about our wiring that connects with stories. From the time we are little, listening to animated stories while sitting criss cross on the floor, to the time we are old, sitting in a rocking chair listening to those around them share stories.
Maybe this wiring is one of the reasons that Jesus told so many stories in the form of parables. Not only did the people of His day better understand what he was attempting to tell them, but throughout generations we have learned through the stories of Jesus.
We learn life lessons and principles from stories. We search for ourselves in the characters of stories. We recall the events and emotions as we hear stories.
So let me share a story with you;
Recently as my family and I were sitting down for supper, Grayson, my oldest son, began to complain about the food that was being set before him. He didn’t like the look of the soup that Eva, my wife, had prepared for the meal. While I wish this event was the only time we have heard Grayson complain about the food, it isn’t. He tends to be the pickier eater of my two boys. At 5 years old we regularly attempt to expose him to new foods and to help him develop a liking to things he currently doesn’t care for.
However, this particular evening, I really couldn’t blame him too much. You see my wife makes a spinach soup. However it’s not just adding spinach into the soup, it's taking all the ingredients and blending them together with handfuls of spinach. It’s a blended soup.
One of our first fights in marriage happened over this particular soup. After working a long day, I had come home to my new bride who had prepared a wonderful dinner. The table was set, the lights were dimmed and the apartment smelled good. However my gratefulness quickly vanished as I was handed a bowl of green purée. I asked, “What is this?”
Maybe it was my tone of voice or the way my face was scrunched up but my wife was not having any of it. She didn’t seem to care that I had not grown up with blended soups or the fact that I thought this soup more reflected baby food than anything I had eaten since being a baby. After she told me it was spinach soup, I proceeded to tell her that I would not be eating her soup that evening.
You can probably image the rest. During that argument I do recall being told that I was too picky, (Probably true, hence not being able to be too upset with Grayson for not wanting to eat the same soup.)
After a few-tear filled forced bites, I, as Grayson’s parent, quickly began weighing my options. In my head I quickly did a cost/benefit analysis and decided instead of continuing to force him to eat, I would simply tell him a story. I proceeded to tell him about the first time I was exposed to spinach soup. I told him what I thought about this “baby food’ looking soup the first time and that I had refused to eat it. I shared with him how after Mommy and Daddy talked about it, I tried the soup, even though I didn’t want to, and to my surprise it was really good. I shared with him that now it was one of my favorite soups and in fact I had asked Mommy to make it that night.
I continued my story by telling him how badly I had made Mommy feel by not eating her soup and for not being grateful for her hard work.
With that I went back to eating, determined not to push the issue anymore that evening.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Grayson put a small amount on his spoon, raise it to his mouth and try just a little lick.
After a few more bites, a shout of expiation (the act of making amends or reparation for guilt or wrongdoing; atonement,) sprang forth, “I like this soup. It's yummy!”
Allow me to share some things I discovered that evening;
In parenting you have to give your children permission to change their minds. If he could see me change my mind, then it was ok for him to change his mind.
That the truly beneficially element of that night was helping him think through how his actions and words impacted the chef. The relationship and how he treated his Mommy was of far greater benefit then just the nutritional value of the soup.
Grayson needed to discover that the soup is indeed delicious on his own.
That the power of a story is something that should never be overlooked in the arsenal of tools we implement as a parent.
This week, look for ways to engage your children with stories. Use stories that will help them grow into the people God would have you raise.